Public venues such as bars, nightclubs, and places of worship will be closed, and a curfew will be imposed in Mubende and nearby Kassanda due to a spike in infections. 19 out of 58 registered cases have died. However, the actual number of deaths and infections may be underrepresented. The outbreak began in early September in Mubende and recorded its first victim. A 24-year-old man in Mubende lost not only his life but the lives of six family members too. By the end of September, 31 cases were confirmed.
President Museveni has implemented eyebrow-raising means to curb the spread of the outbreak. Before ordering the complete shutdown of the cities, he had instructed police to take anyone suspected of carrying the Ebola virus and resisting isolation into custody. Interestingly, he banned traditional healers from treating cases as the healers are linked to previous outbreak hotspots. Furthermore, he suspended all movement in and out of the Mubende and Kasanda districts for 21 days, on Saturday, except for trucks. The Uganda Ministry of Health will also step up contact tracing and support local health facilities.
“Given the gravity of the problem and to prevent further spread and protect lives and livelihoods, the government is taking extra measures that require action from all of us,” Museveni said in a televised address.
“These are temporary measures to control the spread of Ebola. We should all cooperate with authorities so we bring this outbreak to an end in the shortest possible time,” he elaborated.
Ebola is a deadly virus with symptoms like sudden fever, severe weakness, muscle pain, sore throat followed by vomiting, diarrhoea, and sometimes haemorrhaging (internal and external bleeding). This virus can be associated with other illnesses, such as malaria and typhoid, and the incubation period can last from 2 days to 3 weeks. The World Health Organisation (WHO) estimates the fatality rate is between 41% and 100%.
Ebola is transmitted to humans from infected animals such as chimpanzees and fruit bats.
Bushmeat, a wild forest animal, hunted for human consumption, is thought to be a natural host for the virus. It is then spread through direct contact with contaminated bodily fluids such as blood, saliva, vomit, vaginal discharge, urine, faeces, and sweat.
Despite recovery from Ebola, men have also been found to have the virus in their semen for a while after recovery.
The current outbreak in Uganda is the country’s most significant thus far, as it was three weeks before the first case was detected in September. This has caused major worry among authorities. This latest outbreak is due to a Sudanese strain of the virus; unfortunately, there is no licensed vaccine. Ebola’s ability to spread rapidly is the reason why outbreaks keep recurring.
At a press conference earlier this month, World Health Organisation Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said the vaccine used to contain the recent Ebola outbreak in the Democratic Republic of the Congo was ineffective against the strain found in Uganda.
“However, several vaccines are in various stages of development against this virus, two of which could begin clinical trials in Uganda in the coming weeks, pending regulatory and ethics approvals from the Ugandan government,” said Tedros.