Ebola in Uganda: Outbreak leads to lockdown in East African nation

Uganda is currently in the midst of the fifth outbreak of the rare deadly Ebola virus.

Credit : Shubham Patil

East African nation Uganda is currently in the midst of the fifth outbreak of the rare deadly Ebola virus. On Sunday, the health authority reported about 58 new Ebola cases have been recorded, out of which 19 people have died, though the figures may be slightly higher than what is showcased. Uganda President Yoweri Museveni has declared a three-week-long lockdown in Mubende and Kassanda districts in the country in order to limit the spread of the virus. Ugandan Health Authorities declared an outbreak of Ebola virus strain in the country in September.

For the next three weeks, lockdown restrictions will be imposed on all public places including bars, places of worship and entertainment venues. The officials are also working on imposing a curfew which will be in force soon. With the lockdown being imposed, cargo trucks will still be allowed even though other transport systems will be put on hold.

This move by the President is considered to be a backfire of his words earlier. When the outbreak was declared, Yoweri said that there will be no need for a lockdown as it is not an airborne virus. A report by the World Health Organisation (WHO), which examined a sample from the village of Madudu, a sub-county of the Mubende district in central Uganda, says that the outbreak is caused by the Sudan virus (SUDV). This strain of the virus is said to be on the severe side often causing fatalities. Soon after the discovery of the outbreak, a cumulative of 18 confirmed cases were recorded, along with 18 suspected cases as of September 25.



The first case of the recent outbreak was reported on September 11. A 24-year-old man reported that he was showing symptoms including high fever, tonic convulsions, blood-stained vomit, diarrhoea, along with loss of appetite, throat pain, chest pain, dry cough and bleeding through the eyes. When the Uganda Virus Research Institute (UVRI) conducted the RT-PCR test, the rest indicated positive for SUDV.

The Uganda Red Cross Society (URCS) has activated an Ebola preparedness and response programme to help fight the virus. The programme is an emergency appeal targeting about 2.7 million people. Along with this, the URCS has appointed more than 5,00,000 volunteers spread across 51 branches of health centres. The volunteers are preparing for Community Pandemic Prevention and Preparedness (CP3) to ensure that maximum safety is ensured to control the virus within the borders.  

This outbreak of the Ebola virus in Uganda is regarded as the largest to date. This virus strain has no approved effective vaccine or treatment developed yet, which makes the situation complicated and difficult. It is said that the outbreak of Covid-19 that slowed down the research on the Ebola Virus. In 2014, Ebola was declared an Isis disease and WHO called it a Public Health Emergency. With no treatment at hand, it was largely controlled through several vaccines and public health measures. The 2014 outbreak was caused by the Zaire strain of the virus which now has two approved vaccines known as the Ebola Zaire vaccine and ZEBOV which controls the strain along with an effective medicinal treatment of monoclonal antibody treatment.      

The very first case of Ebola was detected in 1976. According to WHO, the estimated case fatality ratios of SVD have varied from 41 percent to 100 percent in the past recorded outbreaks. The outbreak is the first of a kind caused by the SUDV in the country since 2012.

The African Union Commission (AUC) along with the Centre for Disease Control (CDC) is recommending all the neighbouring districts boost their medical surveillance and implement effective infection prevention control. As the nation was still healing from the losses incurred due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the economy is at a crucial point. The wave of the outbreak has hit Uganda’s Agriculture industry since trade and transportation outside of Uganda are at a halt. Even during the 2014 Ebola lockdown, local rice production was affected due to the limitations in managing farmers' groups.