Uganda has declared an outbreak of Ebola after a 24-year-old man suspected to have died from the disease tested positive for the Sudan strain of the virus, the World Health Organization announced today (September 20).
The man lived in the country’s central Mubende district and died after displaying symptoms including diarrhea, high fever, abdominal pain, and vomiting blood, Reuters reports. It is still unknown how he contracted the virus, but six other individuals in the district also died earlier this month of what local officials describe as “strange illness” now thought to have been Ebola, the Associated Press reports. There are currently eight other people in the country with suspected cases who are receiving treatment.
The WHO is working with Ugandan authorities to investigate the source of infection and is sending staff, isolation tents, and additional supplies to the area, it states in a news release.
“Uganda is no stranger to effective Ebola control,” WHO Africa Regional Director Matshidiso Moeti says in the release. “Thanks to its expertise, action has been taken quickly to detect the virus and we can bank on this knowledge to halt the spread of infections.”
The Sudan ebolavirus has caused four previous outbreaks in Uganda, the largest of which occurred in the year 2000 and resulted in more than 200 deaths, according to the WHO. The last reported outbreak of the Sudan strain was in 2012, but an outbreak of the Zaire strain occurred more recently, in 2019. The reservoir species for this outbreak, or the animal from which ebolavirus was originally transmitted to humans, has not yet been officially identified.
Ebola is spread through contact with infected bodily fluids or contaminated materials, and causes an often-fatal hemorrhagic fever, the AP reports. The WHO states that the case fatality rates of previous Sudan ebolavirus outbreaks varied between 41 and 100 percent.
Although ring vaccination, the practice of inoculating the close contacts of confirmed Ebola patients, using the Ervebo vaccine has effectively controlled Ebola outbreaks in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, it has only been approved for use against the Zaire strain of the virus, not the Sudan strain that’s currently spreading in Uganda, according to the WHO’s news release. It adds that a Johnson & Johnson vaccine may prove effective but has not yet been tested on the Sudan strain. The WHO also adds that early treatment of the disease can significantly lower the risk of death.