Second patient dies of Ebola in Uganda

Health workers vaccinating people against Ebola to prevent the spread of the virus

Health workers vaccinating people against Ebola to prevent the spread of the virus

Geneva - The World Health Organization on Friday said the ongoing Ebola outbreak in Congo - which spilled into Uganda this week - is an "extraordinary event" of deep concern but does not yet merit being declared a global emergency.

There have been four declarations of public health emergencies since 2005, when WHO's regulations came in: swine flu in 2009, polio in 2014 when there was a resurgence after near eradication, Ebola in west Africa in 2014 and Zika virus in Brazil in 2016. [PHEIC] would have been justified. This isn't the first time Uganda has faced Ebola outbreaks, but is the first instance of the disease spreading from the current outbreak in the DRC.

But other experts have warned a PHEIC can be a double-edged sword.

The WHO admitted earlier this week it's been unable to identify the sources of almost half of new Ebola cases in Congo, suggesting health workers don't know where the virus is moving.

The North Kivu outbreak likely started in late April 2018 but was only recognized as Ebola in late July. "But we anticipate that it will eventually be contained." she said.

At the peak of the Ebola crisis in DR Congo a year ago, the Health ministry said they needed Shs3.4 billion for response and surveillance in the country. And while it is still less than one-tenth of the size of the massive West African outbreak that ran from 2014 to 2016, it is proving to be potentially more hard to control.

With the confirmation of Ebola on Tuesday this week, the European Union (EU) yesterday released an additional €2.5 million (about Shs10.5 billion) for strengthening rapid detection and reaction to Ebola cases in Uganda. The area has been engulfed in conflict for more than two decades, limiting the response's access to some communities where the virus has been circulating. Five workers have been killed, according to an AFP tally.

A declaration of a public health emergency of global concern would have pulled in more resources and help. We have so many confirmed cases, and their contacts have not been followed up.

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This week it did cross a border - into Uganda. They slipped into Uganda on Monday.

A health worker checks the temperature of a woman as she crosses the Mpondwe border point separating Uganda and the Democratic Republic of Congo as part of the ebola screening at the computerised Mpondwe Health Screening Facility in Mpondwe, Uganda June 13, 2019.

Several of DRC's neighbors have been preparing for months for the possibility that infected people might cross into their territory.

"I have never been in a context where people throw rocks at our vaccination team, where they block roads, where they loot and pillage our health care facilities", he said.

Those preparations appear to have paid off this week.

Alexandra Phelan, a global health expert at Georgetown University, said the legal criteria for declaring Ebola a global emergency have always been met, even before the virus reached Uganda.

As of Friday, Uganda had only one suspected case of Ebola in its Ebola treatment unit, according to Ugandan Health Minister Dr. Jane Ruth Aceng.

South Sudan has also declared a state of alert and vaccinated health workers. "There's no shaking of hands, people just wave at each other". Health authorities there are tracking those people to offer vaccine and monitor their health for three weeks to see whether they will develop the disease.

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