After a year since the world’s second-worst Ebola outbreak began in the Democratic Republic of Congo, the first disease-related deaths have crossed the northeastern border into Uganda on Monday, 10 June of this week. These are the first deaths caused by Ebola in Uganda since an outbreak in 2012, when 200 people died from the disease.
The five-year-old Ugandan boy who was infected with the disease crossed into Uganda through the Bwera Border post, from the DRC where he was with his family. The young child sought treatment at a nearby hospital before dying days later on Ugandan soil. Ebola also claimed the life of his grandmother, who had travelled with the family.
Ugandan health officials have responded swiftly to the two deaths, repatriating the deceased’s surviving family members to the DRC, and quarantining 27 other people who are suspected of contamination. In order to safeguard against the highly contagious disease, Uganda has vaccinated 4,700 health workers and established Ebola screening centres at strategic areas on the border where there are typically high levels of movement.
Though these deaths will certainly test the East African country’s medical resources—specifically, the capacity quarantine potentially infected people and dispense experimental, but highly effective, vaccines. Initial analysis suggests that Uganda is at a much lower risk for outbreak than the neighbouring DRC, where nearly 1400 people have died from the disease since April 2018. Widespread violence between various armed actors—including the national army—, as well as direct attacks on health facilities, in tandem with a general scepticism of government and foreign health workers, has severely hindered efforts to contain the disease in the DRC.
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