The health authorities in Uganda today declared an outbreak of Ebola after a case of the ‘Sudan’ Ebolavirus was confirmed in Mubende district in the central part of the country.
The Uganda Virus Research Institute confirmed the case after testing a sample taken from a 24-year-old male. This followed an investigation by the national rapid response team of six suspicious deaths that have occurred in the district this month. There are currently eight suspected cases receiving care in a health facility.
“This is the first time in more than a decade that Uganda is recording an outbreak of Sudan ebolavirus. We are working closely with the national health authorities to investigate the source of this outbreak while supporting the efforts to quickly roll out effective control measures,” said the World Health Organization (WHO) regional director for Africa, Dr. Matshidiso Moeti. “Uganda is no stranger to effective Ebola control. Thanks to its expertise, action has been taken to quickly detect the virus and we can bank on this knowledge to halt the spread of infections.”
There have been seven previous outbreaks of the Sudan ebolavirus, with four occurring in Uganda and three in Sudan. Uganda last reported an outbreak of ‘Sudan’ ebolavirus in 2012. In 2019, the country experienced an outbreak of ‘Zaire’ Ebola virus. The virus was imported from neighbouring Democratic Republic of the Congo which was battling a large epidemic in its northeastern region.
WHO is helping Ugandan health authorities with the investigation and is deploying staff to the affected area. The organisation has dispatched supplies to support the care of patients and is sending a tent that will be used to isolate patients.
While ring vaccination of high-risk people with Ervebo (rVSV-ZEBOV) vaccine has been highly effective in controlling the spread of Ebola in recent outbreaks in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and elsewhere, this vaccine has only been approved to protect against the Zaire virus. Another vaccine produced by Johnson and Johnson may be effective but has yet to be specifically tested against Ebola ‘Sudan’.
Ebola is a severe, often fatal illness affecting humans and other primates. It has six different species, three of which (Bundibugyo, Sudan and Zaire) have previously caused large outbreaks. Case fatality rates of the Sudan virus have varied from 41 per cent to 100 per cent in past outbreaks. Early initiation of supportive treatment has been shown to significantly reduce deaths from Ebola.