Ebola in Uganda was confirmed by the Uganda Ministry of Health on the 20th of September 2022 and a lot of questions have been rising on what this Virus is all about; its history, its effects on pregnant and breastfeeding mothers, what are its signs and symptoms. Well, here is Love Uganda Safaris & Tours Ltd to have all your questions about Ebola in Uganda covered and assure all its travelers in Uganda and Africa at large that it is very safe to travel to Uganda.

What is Ebola Virus Disease (EVD)?

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) was formerly known as Ebola hemorrhagic fever which is a rare but fatal illness to human beings and can easily result in death if not treated. The virus traces its origin to wild animals and spreads in the human population through human-to-human transmission. The virus family Filoviridae includes three genera: Cuevavirus, Marburg virus, and Ebola virus. Within the genus Ebola virus, six species have been identified: Zaire, Bundibugyo, Sudan, Taï Forest, Reston, and Bombali.

In the past outbreaks of Ebola Virus Disease (EVD), 25% to 90% of deaths have been recorded. This is an indicator of how deadly the disease can be in the event that it is not treated.

History and origin of Ebola Virus Disease (EVD)

According to the World Health Organization (WHO) Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) first appeared in 1976 in two simultaneous outbreaks, one in what is now Nzara, South Sudan, and the other in Yambuku, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). The latter occurred in a village near the Ebola River, from which the disease gets its name.

Since the outbreak of the Ebola Virus Disease in 1976, the deadliest outbreak was the one from 2013 to 2016 which occurred in West Africa. The outbreak started in Guinea and moved to Sierra Leon and some parts of Liberia.

Out of the five outbreaks of Ebola Virus Disease in Uganda, the 2000 outbreak is so far the largest since it involved 425 infections and 224 deaths. Out of the five outbreaks, four were caused by the Sudan Virus species. This is an indicator of how deadly the disease was at the moment and the response measures were not as vibrant as they are currently.

How is Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) transmitted? – How is Ebola Transmited?

Specialists and experts believe that Ebola Virus is carried naturally by fruit bats of the Pteropodidae family. The virus can thus be transmitted to humans through direct contact with the blood, secretions, organs or other bodily fluids of infected animals such as fruit bats, chimpanzees, gorillas, monkeys, forest antelope or porcupines found ill or dead or in the rainforest.

Additionally, Ebola virus disease can spread from human to human through direct contact (through broken skin or mucous membranes) with:

  • Blood or body fluids of a person who is sick with or has died from Ebola
  • Objects that have been contaminated with body fluids (like blood, feces, vomit) from a person sick with Ebola or the body of a person who died from Ebola

It is also possible for pregnant mothers who get the Ebola virus and recover may spread the disease to their newborn babies. This means that breastfeeding mothers should first get their milk tested before they start feeding it to their babies. This will put the babies on the safer side and protect them from this deadly disease.

What are the symptoms of Ebola Virus Disease (EVD)?

Ebola Virus has an incubation period of 2 to 21 days in the human body. The infected person cannot spread the disease to another until any of these symptoms have appeared;

  • Fever
  • Fatigue
  • Muscle pain
  • Headache
  • Sore throat

The above symptoms appear first but later on, the infected person will have the following symptoms which indicate that the virus is in the advanced stages;

  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhoea
  • Rash
  • 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.

How can I diagnose Ebola Virus Disease?

Ebola has symptoms that are closely related to other usual diseases such as malaria, especially in its young stages. This makes it difficult to diagnose that is why one is advised to see the doctor as soon as any of the symptoms appear to get an expert diagnosis. Self-treatment is highly condemned.

Where is the Ebola outbreak in Uganda – Is Ebola in Uganda?

Ebola is not new to Uganda, much as it had taken some time without breaking into the country. It has recently been confirmed in Uganda in the districts of Mubende, Kagadi, Kyegegwa, Kassanda, and Bunyangabo. The first Ebola Virus case was reported in Mubende district (Central Uganda) and a 24-year-old male Ugandan showed the symptoms and was proven positive after being subjected to the Ebola test by medical specialists. The case was locally developed, not imported from other countries.

How many Ebola cases are in Uganda so far?

As of 9th October 2022, 10 deaths, 44 confirmed and 20 probable cases have been reported so far in Uganda, however, the Ministry of Health continuously assures the Public that the situation is under control. Some of the cases include doctors and nurses who have contracted the disease from hospitals and Ebola treatment centers. But the good news is that majority of these doctors plus other Ebola patients have fully recovered and have been sent back home. It should be noted that the number of Ebola cases keep changing as days go by since new cases come and others get discharged after full recovery.

Can you survive Ebola?

It is possible to survive Ebola Virus Disease, once the patient reports early to the medical doctors and receives treatment in time. There are many testimonies of people who have recovered from Ebola Virus Disease not just from the most recent outbreak but even those of the past years. All you need is the right treatment at the right time like any other disease.

Who is immune to Ebola?

Recovery from EVD depends on good supportive care and the patient’s immune response. Investigational treatments are also increasing overall survival.

Those who do recover develop antibodies that can last 10 years, possibly longer. Survivors are thought to have some protective immunity to the type of Ebola that sickened them. It is not known if people who recover are immune for life or if they can later become infected with a different species of Ebola virus. Some survivors may have long-term complications, such as joint and vision problems.

How long does Ebola last in a person?

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the virus can remain in areas of the body that are immunologically privileged sites after acute infection. These are sites where viruses and pathogens, like the Ebola virus, are shielded from the survivor’s immune system, even after being cleared elsewhere in the body. These areas include the testes, interior of the eyes, placenta, and central nervous system, particularly the cerebrospinal fluid. Whether the virus is present in these body parts and for how long varies by a survivor.

Scientists continue to study the long-term effects of Ebola virus infection, including viral persistence, to better understand how to provide treatment and care to EVD survivors.

Key facts about Ebola Virus Disease

  • Ebola virus disease (EVD), formerly known as Ebola hemorrhagic fever, is a rare but severe, often fatal illness in humans.
  • The virus is transmitted to people from wild animals and spreads in the human population through human-to-human transmission.
  • The average EVD case fatality rate is around 50%. Case fatality rates have varied from 25% to 90% in past outbreaks.
  • Community engagement is key to successfully controlling outbreaks.
  • Good outbreak control relies on applying a package of interventions, namely case management, infection prevention and control practices, surveillance and contact tracing, a good laboratory service, safe and dignified burials, and social mobilization.
  • Vaccines to protect against Ebola have been developed and have been used to help control the spread of Ebola outbreaks in Guinea and in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC).
  • Pregnant and breastfeeding women with Ebola should be offered early supportive care.   same conditions as for the non-pregnant population.
  • If a breastfeeding woman who is recovering from Ebola wishes to continue breastfeeding, she should be supported to do so. Her breast milk needs to be tested for Ebola before she can start.

How to prevent and control Ebola Virus Disease (EVD).

For Viruses such as Ebola Virus to be successfully contained, there is a need for a collective effort from all the stakeholders and all people on the ground. Below are some of the recommendable preventive measures from the World Health Organization (WHO)

  • Reducing the risk of wildlife-to-human transmission from contact with infected fruit bats, monkeys, apes, forest antelope, or porcupines and the consumption of their raw meat. Animals should be handled with gloves and other appropriate protective clothing. Animal products (blood and meat) should be thoroughly cooked before consumption.
  • Reducing the risk of human-to-human transmission from direct or close contact with people with Ebola symptoms, particularly with their bodily fluids. Gloves and appropriate personal protective equipment should be worn when taking care of ill patients. Regular hand washing is required after visiting patients in the hospital, as well as after taking care of patients at home.
  • Outbreak containment measures, including safe and dignified burial of the dead, identifying people who may have been in contact with someone infected with Ebola and monitoring their health for 21 days, the importance of separating the healthy from the sick to prevent further spread, and the importance of good hygiene and maintaining a clean environment.
  • Reducing the risk of possible sexual transmission, based on further analysis of ongoing research and consideration by the WHO Advisory Group on the Ebola Virus Disease Response, WHO recommends that male survivors of EVD practice safer sex and hygiene for 12 months from the onset of symptoms or until their semen tests negative twice for Ebola virus. Contact with body fluids should be avoided and washing with soap and water is recommended. WHO does not recommend the isolation of male or female convalescent patients whose blood has tested negative for the Ebola virus.
  • Reducing the risk of transmission from pregnancy-related fluids and tissue, pregnant women who have survived Ebola disease need community support to enable them to attend frequent antenatal care (ANC) visits, handle any pregnancy complications and meet their need for sexual and reproductive care, and delivery in a safe way. This should be planned together with the Ebola and Obstetric health care expertise. Pregnant women should always be respected in the sexual and reproductive health choices they make.

How to Protect Ebola Survivors from spreading the Virus.

  • All Ebola survivors and their sexual partners should receive counseling to ensure safer sexual practices until their semen has twice tested negative. Survivors should be provided with condoms.
  • Male Ebola survivors should be offered semen testing 3 months after the onset of the disease, and then, for those who test positive, every month thereafter until their semen tests negative for the virus twice by RT-PCR, with an interval of one week between tests.
  • Ebola survivors and their sexual partners should either:
    • abstain from all types of sex, or
    • Observe safer sex through correct and consistent condom use until their semen has twice tested negative.
  • Having tested negative, survivors can safely resume normal sexual practices without fear of Ebola virus transmission.
  • Based on further analysis of ongoing research and consideration by the WHO Advisory Group on the Ebola Virus Disease Response, WHO recommends that male survivors of Ebola virus disease practice safe sex and hygiene for 12 months from the onset of symptoms or until their semen tests negative twice for the Ebola virus.
  • Until such time as their semen has twice tested negative for Ebola, survivors should practice good hand and personal hygiene by immediately and thoroughly washing with soap and water after any physical contact with semen, including after masturbation. During this period, used condoms should be handled safely, and safely disposed of, so as to prevent contact with seminal fluids.
  • All survivors, their partners, and their families should be shown respect, dignity, and compassion.

Is it safe to travel to Uganda these days?

Recently, the Ministry of Health (MOH) in Uganda headed by Dr. Jane Ruth Aceng wrote a letter to the public stating how safe Uganda is safe for both in and out movements. She described the situation as one under control and hence declared the country safe for all travelers. This was emphasized by the President of the Republic of Uganda in his national address on the Ebola outbreak where he said “We [Uganda] shall not have lockdowns like those that happened during the covid-19 times, since the Ebola virus is under control.”

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