With nearly 40 people dead from a rare virus strain in the current Ebola outbreak in Uganda, AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF) urges the world to be vigilant by ensuring the region has the health commodities it needs, including personal protective equipment for health care workers and making Ebola vaccines available as soon as possible.
The current outbreak began a month ago and has spread to five districts, two of which are on a 21-day lockdown. As of Oct. 17, 54 confirmed and 20 probable Ebola cases have resulted in 19 confirmed and 20 probable Ebola deaths—four were among health care workers. Ugandan officials had contact-traced over 1,100 people as of three days ago. This outbreak is caused by the rare Sudan strain of the virus, for which there is no approved vaccine.
“It is imperative that this crisis be monitored closely and acted on urgently to not repeat past mistakes that led to thousands of avoidable deaths, including two AHF doctors in West Africa during the 2014-2016 Ebola outbreak,” said AHF Africa Bureau Chief Dr. Penninah Iutung, who is based in Kampala. “The world must mobilize to ensure Uganda and neighboring countries implement a robust response to contain and eliminate this outbreak. This includes availing adequate PPE for all health care workers, community sensitisation, and adequate vaccine production and distribution.”
According to Reuters, the Serum Institute of India recently announced plans to manufacture 20,000 to 30,000 doses of an experimental vaccine developed by Oxford University by the end of next month to combat the Sudan virus strain.
“AHF backs all efforts to increase the availability of Ebola vaccines, which must proceed quickly,” added Dr. Iutung. “All options must be considered, including sharing the knowledge and technology to produce vaccines on the African continent where they are needed most. COVID-19 proved that Africa can’t rely on the Global North for support during health emergencies, and this Ebola outbreak is no different.”
The outbreak sits to the west of Uganda’s capital Kampala, with one affected district, Kassanda, located within roughly 100 km of the city. With a population of over 1.5 million, immediate action must be taken before the virus spreads to Kampala or other more populated parts of the country and beyond.