Uganda declares end of Ebola disease outbreak: WHO

Uganda recorded a total of 164 cases & 55 deaths since the outbreak began September 20, 2022

By Kiran Pandey
Published: Thursday 12 January 2023
Photo for representation. Source: iStock__

Uganda declared the end of the Ebola disease outbreak caused by Sudan ebolavirus on Jan 11, 2023, the World Health Organization (WHO) said in a statement.  The country managed to end the outbreak in less than four months after the first case was confirmed in central Mubende district September 20, 2022.

This was Uganda’s first Sudan ebolavirus outbreak in a decade and its fifth overall. The East African country recorded a total of 164 cases, of which 142 were confirmed, and 55 deaths due to the disease. The overall case-fatality ratio was 47 per cent, WHO noted.

The last patient was released from care on November 30, 2022, when the 42-day countdown to the end of the outbreak began. 

Watch: Rare Sudan strain leads to Ebola outbreak in Uganda

Effective surveillance, along with support of the communities, had a major role in managing the crisis, WHO noted. “Uganda put a swift end to the Ebola outbreak by ramping up key control measures such as surveillance, contact tracing and infection, prevention and control,” said Dr Jane Ruth Aceng Acero, Uganda’s health minister, adding:

While we expanded our efforts to put a strong response in place across the nine affected districts, the magic bullet has been our communities who understood the importance of doing what was needed to end the outbreak and took action.

The political commitment coupled with implementation of accelerated public health actions has also been behind the war against the outbreak, she mentioned. In addition, restricted movements in the hotspot communities of Mubende and Kasanda also helped, the health minister noted.

WHO Director-General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus praised and congratulated Uganda for its robust and comprehensive response. “Uganda has shown that Ebola can be defeated when the whole system works together, from having an alert system in place, to finding and caring for people affected and their contacts, to gaining the full participation of affected communities in the response,” he said.

Lessons learned and the systems put in place for this outbreak will protect Ugandans and others in the years ahead, Ghebreyesus added.

With no vaccines and therapeutics, this was one of the most challenging Ebola outbreaks in the past five years, according to the WHO statement. 

Uganda’s long experience in responding to epidemics helped the country to rapidly strengthen critical areas of the response and overcome the lack of these key tools.

Efforts of the WHO also contributed to success of the country, the United Nations health agency mentioned. “After the Sudan ebolavirus outbreak was declared, the international health body worked with a large range of partners, including vaccines developers, researchers, donors and the Ugandan health authorities to identify candidate therapeutics and vaccines for inclusion in trials.” 

WHO provided nearly $6.5 million to Uganda’s response and an additional $3 million to support readiness in six neighbouring countries, the press note stated.

Three vaccine candidates were identified and over 5,000 doses of these arrived in the country, starting with the first batch on December 8, 2022 and the last two on December 17.

The speed of this collaboration marks a milestone in the global capacity to respond to rapidly evolving outbreaks and prevent them from becoming larger.

These candidate vaccines were not used during this outbreak, said Dr Yonas Tegegn Woldemariam, WHO representative in Uganda. “But they remain the contribution of Uganda and partners to the fight against Ebola.”

Although the outbreak in Uganda has been declared over, health authorities are maintaining surveillance, according to the global health agency said. 

The neighbouring countries including South Sudan and the Democratic Republic of the Congo are still on alert, it added. 

They are encouraged to continue strengthening their capacities to detect and respond to infectious disease outbreaks, WHO mentioned. 

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