Uganda contains Ebola outbreak

Uganda has declared the end of an Ebola outbreak that it has been fighting for some four months. 

“We have successfully controlled the spread of Ebola in Uganda,” Health Minister Jane Ruth Aceng said during a ceremony to mark the outbreak’s end.

Aceng said this was Uganda’s eighth Ebola outbreak since 2000, when the country recorded its first and most deadly one that killed more than half of the 425 people it infected.

The latest outbreak has killed 55 of the 143 people infected since September, according to health ministry figures. Six of the fatalities were health workers.

The declaration on 12 January followed Uganda’s completion of 42 days with no active cases, which represents two full incubation periods of the virus.

In the early weeks of the outbreak, cases spread beyond the epicentre of Mubende, 150 km (90 miles) west of the capital Kampala, to several other districts, including Kampala.

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The director-general of the World Health Organization (WHO), Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, praised Uganda for its response to the virus.

“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 in a statement.

Uganda’s President Yoweri Museveni added that a two-week delay in declaring the outbreak after the first probable death from Ebola meant “the opportunity for immediate quarantine of contacts was lost”.

Ebola spreads through contact with the bodily fluids of an infected person and has a fatality rate of about 50%. More than 11,300 people died during the 2013-2016 outbreak in West Africa.

Unlike the more common strain of the virus, Ebola Zaire, which has been behind several recent epidemics in neighbouring Democratic Republic of Congo, the strain behind Uganda’s outbreak, Ebola Sudan, has no proven vaccine.

Even so, experts said Uganda’s experience battling previous outbreaks of Ebola and its viral cousin Marburg helped its response.