Published On: Thu, Jun 13th, 2019

Ebola crisis: Disease spreads beyond DR Congo – two dead in Uganda | World | News

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The current outbreak of the deadly haemorrhagic fever began in August last year in conflict-hit eastern Congo and has already infected more than 2,000 people, killing 1,390 of them. The victim was the Congolese grandmother of a five-year-old boy who died of the virus on Tuesday evening after crossing into Uganda with his family from neighbouring DR Congo last week, the ministry said. The health official, Emmanuel Ainebyona, told Reuters the two other people currently under observation are the dead boy’s three-year-old brother and a 23-year-old Ugandan man. 

The child had entered Uganda on June 9 through Bwera Border post with his Ugandan father and Congolese mother, who had travelled to DR Congo to look after her father before he died of Ebola, Uganda’s Health Minister Jane Ruth Aceng told a news conference.

The family returned to Uganda with four other relatives of Congolese origin, Mrs Aceng said, adding that a total of 27 contacts were being monitored. 

Uganda hopes to repatriate the two new Ebola patients to DR Congo, saying they will get better treatment in specialised clinics there. Three more family members – who are currently healthy – could also be repatriated, the health ministry said.  

Ugandan health officials have since banned public gatherings in the Kasese district where the Ebola patients are receiving treatment. 

But while Uganda is relatively well prepared to contain the virus, the first cross-border cases show that the epidemic is entering a “truly frightening phase” and could claim many more lives, an infectious disease expert told Reuters. 

Ebola, which is highly contagious, spreads through contact with bodily fluids, causing haemorrhagic fever with severe vomiting, acute diarrhoea and bleeding.

The current outbreak began in August 2018 in eastern Congo, infecting at least 2,062 people and killing 1,390 of them. 

It is the second largest Ebola outbreak on record, after the 2013-2016 west Africa epidemic that infected some 28,000 people and killed more than 11,000. 

The World Health Organisation (WHO) is sending an additional 3,500 vaccines to Uganda in an effort to contain the disease. 

The WHO’s Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus will hold an emergency meeting on Friday to decide whether the current outbreak amounts to an international public health emergency and how to handle it. 

Authorities in DR Congo  have been at pains to rein in the disease’s spread in part because health workers have been repeatedly targeted in violence-ridden eastern Congo, the epicentre of the outbreak. 

The WHO has recorded 174 attacks on Ebola health workers and clinics so far this year, causing five deaths and 51 injuries of both workers and patients, spokesman Tarik Jasarevic said on Wednesday.

Rampant public mistrust of the Congolese government and health workers has fuelled rumours that the disease is a hoax to rig elections in the area, where dozens of armed rebel groups are based. 

Other rumours accuse Ebola health teams of spreading the disease, and many Ebola victims have turned to traditional healers instead or shunned treatment altogether. 

The new Uganda cases have stoked fears the killer virus could now spill over into neighbouring South Sudan, which is struggling to recover from a bloody five-year civil war and whose health facilities are very basic. 

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