The Ebola virus crossed the border into Uganda from the Democratic Republic of Congo this week, killing a 5-year-old and his grandmother, according to the Ugandan Ministry of Health. Three additional cases were confirmed in that country yesterday, though the government has since announced the individuals found to have tested positive for the disease have been returned to the DRC.
Though the World Health Organization stopped short Friday from designating the outbreak an international health emergency, the agency called it an “extraordinary event, with risk of international spread.”
This latest Ebola epidemic, which began 10 months ago, has killed more than 1,400 people and infected over 2,100 individuals, making it the second-worst Ebola outbreak on record.
The disease entered Uganda when family members carrying the illness crossed over from the Democratic Republic of Congo using an unguarded footpath. Uganda has long prepared for the spread of the disease and moved quickly to identity people who had come into contact with those carrying the Ebola virus, and nearly 100 people are part of the contact tracing investigation, according to the Associated Press.
In addition to Uganda, other neighboring countries have also been making preparations to fight against the spread of Ebola, which is contagious via direct contact and bodily fluids. A confluence of factors have made it difficult to combat the spread of the disease within the DRC, including geographical access, political unrest, and violence directed towards aid workers and medical healthcare providers.
The Ebola epidemic could continue, despite DRC’s long-standing experience with treating the lethal virus. The country was the site of the first outbreak after the disease was discovered in 1976, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Across the border in Yei, South Sudan, Dr. Timothy Isabu, medical director at the Evangelical Presbyterian Church Clinic, underwent training last fall to become a rapid response member, should Ebola appear in his country. Isabu’s organization requested personal protection equipment via Impact AO, a liaison that helps support local leaders around the world.
Direct Relief provided personal protection equipment last fall to clinics and the health ministry in DRC, and the medical aid shipped contained the most requested items to help combat Ebola, according to Direct Relief’s Kayla McCarthy, who leads Africa and Haiti Programs.
While the threat of Ebola looms, clinics in the region also have unmet everyday needs, and Direct Relief is working to support the health system with requested drugs, including a recent shipment of hypertension drugs bound for Bugoye Health Center in Uganda’s Kasese District.
“In general, they need basic primary care medicines: basic antibiotics, pain relievers, anti-fungal, bandages, gauze, and anti-malarials,” said Karinn Sammann, co-founder of Impact AO, referring to Dr. Isabu’s clinic and others in the region.