Officials in Uganda have confirmed an outbreak of the deadly Ebola virus. The country’s Ministry of Health says a young man died of the virus in central Uganda Monday, and several of his relatives who died earlier this month are also suspected to have had Ebola. The government has sent a rapid response team to the area to investigate.
Uganda’s Ministry of Health officials say the suspected Ebola case was identified Saturday in a village in the central Mubende district.
The ministry’s permanent secretary, Dr. Diana Atwine, says a 24-year-old man was admitted to a hospital for pneumonia and diarrhea.
But his symptoms also included those of the deadly virus — a dry cough, high fever, convulsions, blood-stained vomit and bleeding in the eyes.
Speaking at a press conference Tuesday, Atwine said the clinical team and the Uganda Virus Research Institute conducted tests for Ebola.
“The results were released yesterday evening and they confirmed Ebola, the Sudan strain,” she said. “Unfortunately, that morning of 19th, the patient who had been confirmed with Ebola passed on.”
Atwine said six of the man’s relatives who died earlier this month — three adults and three children from the same family — also may have had Ebola.
The World Health Organization’s Uganda office says there are eight more people with suspected cases that are receiving care at a health facility.
Uganda’s health ministry has yet to identify the source of the infection but suspects wildlife to human contact.
A rapid response team was sent to Mubende to investigate, put in place control measures, and use rapid testing on contacts in the community.
But the World Health Organization says vaccinating those who were in contact with the infected or someone linked to them, known as ring vaccination, will not be possible.
WHO-Uganda’s head of disease prevention and control, Dr. Bayo Fatunmbi, told the briefing there is currently no effective vaccine available for the Sudan strain of Ebola.
“The ring vaccination that worked with [the] Zaire virus, will not be useful for this particular Sudan strain,” he said. “But there’s another type of vaccine, Johnson and Johnson, that is being tested currently [to see] whether it will be useful for this particular strain.”
The WHO says ring vaccination has been highly effective in controlling the spread of the Zaire strain in recent Ebola outbreaks in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
The WHO says Uganda’s last Ebola outbreak in 2019 was the Zaire strain. Uganda last reported the relatively rare Sudan strain outbreak in 2012.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is helping Uganda deal with this latest outbreak.
Amy Boore, the CDC’s Global Health Protection program director, told reporters they were prepared to assist the Uganda Virus Research Institute.
“CDC headquarters is already in communication with UVRI (Uganda Virus Research Institute) and is already helping them develop plans for how they will continue to test and expand testing and have all the support they need during this,” she said.
Ebola is spread through bodily fluids and causes a hemorrhagic fever that kills up to 90% of those infected. The WHO says case fatality rates of the Sudan virus have varied from 41% to 100% in past outbreaks.
The Sudan strain of Ebola, discovered in Sudan in 1976, is less common than the Zaire strain that was found that same year.
The Zaire strain of Ebola was named after the country and river where it was found, the Ebola River in the former Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).
The DRC’s name was changed to Zaire in 1971 then changed back to Democratic Republic of Congo in 1997.
Health authorities in the neighboring DRC in late August declared a resurgence of Ebola after confirming a case in the country’s eastern North Kivu province.
It was the fifteenth resurgent outbreak recorded in the DRC.