According to the World Health Organization (WHO), the Ebola Virus Disease (EVD), formerly known as Ebola Haemorrhagic Fever, is a severe, often fatal illness affecting humans and other primates. The virus is transmitted to people from wild animals (such as fruit bats, porcupines and non-human primates) and then spreads in the human population through direct contact with the blood, secretions, organs or other bodily fluids of infected people, and with surfaces and materials (e.g. bedding, clothing) contaminated with these fluids.
The average EVD case fatality rate is around 50%. Case fatality rates have varied from 25% to 90% in past outbreaks.
The incubation period – that is, the time interval from infection with the virus to onset of symptoms – is from 2 to 21 days. A person infected with Ebola cannot spread the disease until they develop symptoms.
Symptoms of EVD typically progress from dry symptoms which include:
• Muscle pain
• Sore throat
This is followed by a progression of wet symptoms which may include:
• Symptoms of impaired kidney and liver function
• In some cases, both internal and external bleeding (for example, oozing from the gums or blood in the stools).
• Laboratory findings include low white blood cell and platelet counts and elevated liver enzymes.
The Ministry of Health in Uganda has been very proactive in issuing guidelines to prevent the spread of Ebola Virus Disease:
Successful Ebola outbreak control relies on an integrated response, including clinical management, community engagement, surveillance and contact tracing, and strengthening laboratory capacity.
While there is a lot that individuals can do to protect themselves, the implementation of infection prevention and control (IPC) measures in healthcare (e.g., hand hygiene, training of health workers, adequate personal protective equipment (PPE) supplies, waste management, environmental cleaning, and disinfection etc) with ongoing monitoring and supervision for implementation is critical to reducing risks of healthcare facilities amplifying outbreaks. Ensuring the provision of safe and dignified burials, supporting IPC in community settings (including adequate WASH facilities, hand hygiene capacity and safe waste management) and community engagement and social mobilisation are essential to prevent and mitigate ongoing transmission.
The Ministry of Health in the six neighbouring countries to Uganda (Burundi, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Kenya, Rwanda, South Sudan, and the United Republic of Tanzania), national and international partners, and the WHO are supporting actions in order to prepare for a possible wider Ebola Virus outbreak.
These include the activation of multi-sectoral coordination mechanisms for Ebola, refresher training of rapid response teams, refresher laboratory training, infection prevention and control at health care facilities, activation/strengthening of surveillance systems for Ebola, community engagement and risk communication, screenings at points of entry (PoE) and assessment and reinforcement of case management capacities, among other activities.
In light of the EVD outbreak in Uganda, Amref Uganda and NBCC have been activating to coordinate action across sectors. What we have learned from the Covid-19 pandemic is that only with swift and transparent multi-sectoral collaboration can we prevent outbreaks becoming crises.
Amref Uganda has been rapidly deploying interpersonal communication activities including training of CHVs, integrated home improvement campaigns, working with Imans to disseminate key messaging and much more. It has also been engaging in national and international level meetings to discuss response efforts and the need for additional support. Amref Uganda, in collaboration with NBCC, has played a critical role in the provision and distribution of PPE and sanitation products to healthcare facilities and communities.
Amref-NBCC have also been working to secure additional media slots in order to disseminate important EVD prevention messaging throughout the country and wider East Africa region. Messaging has pivoted from a focus solely on Covid-19 to communication that covers both Covid-19 and EVD prevention. NBCC has had a particular focus on trying to bring the private sector on board for financial support and in-kind donations.
For further information on the public health response in Uganda by the Ministry of Health, WHO, and partners, see the latest situation reports.
For daily statistics, visit: https://www.health.go.ug/ebola/
Check out the BBC's article on 'What is Ebola and why is Uganda's outbreak so serious?