Uganda, at high risk for Ebola, starts vaccinating medics

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If current efforts fail, Ebola could become endemic in a region for the first time.

It follows the influx of refugees from the Democratic Republic of Congo who are fleeing violence. At present the outbreak in Democratic Republic of Congo is at its worst.

In DRC till date, this season, around 300 cases of Ebola have been suspected with 265 confirmed cases of the disease.

Meanwhile, Uganda will soon begin vaccinating frontline health workers against Ebola as the threat increases of the deadly virus.

The vaccine that is being administered is still experimental but has been shown to be protective in the clinical trials.

Earlier this month, the health ministry said it will install health checkpoints at the entrances to all polling stations in Congo's Ebola-affected region during the December presidential election, when millions of Congolese are expected to come out to vote.

As of October 29, 2018, Ebola vaccination totals have reached 24,142 people in the DRC.

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The strategy in Uganda involves an experimental vaccine, which officials say will not be given to the public.

Recently, the World Health Organization (WHO) said there is not enough valid research to risk the health of pregnant women nor their future child with the investigational vaccine rVSV-ZEBOV.

The vaccination programme in this area is driven by fears about the disease spreading across the border between the two countries, the porousness of this border being a big concern, according to Grace Kiwanuka, executive director of the Uganda Healthcare Federation. An undiagnosed Ebola patient could present to a health facility in Uganda for medical attention. Some civilians with Ebola have refused treatment, and healthcare workers are still being infected.

Uganda has for the first time imitated a vaccination drive against Ebola Hemorrhagic Fever (EHF) as a preventive measure against the disease that has for the past months ravaged neighbours, DR Congo. Since then there have been regular outbreaks across Central and West African countries. In 2000 and 2001, 574 people were infected and 261 died in Uganda. The last outbreak, contained in July, sickened 53 people and killed 33.

The infection is capable of killing 20 to 70 percent of those who are infected depending on the strain of virus.

Although the "investigational vaccine" has not yet been licensed it was used in previous Ebola outbreaks in Guinea, Sierra Leone and DR Congo at the recommendation of the WHO's group of experts.

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