Uganda tackles Ebola spread as WHO decides next step

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(13 Jun 2019) LEAD IN:
The Ebola outbreak in DRC may be upgraded to an international public health emergency at a meeting of an expert panel at the World Health Organisation tomorrow (Friday 14 June).
The virus has already spread to neighbouring Uganda where a young boy and his grandmother became the first confirmed Ebola deaths outside DRC.
There’s concern it could grow like the West African epidemic which killed more than eleven thousand people.

This is Uganda’s border check with DRC, it was introduced last August, but now there is an added anxiety.
Health workers have feared it would just be a matter of time before the deadly virus began to cross borders from the Democratic Republic of Congo.
A second person infected with the Ebola virus has died in Uganda, the health ministry said Thursday, after a family exposed to the disease quietly crossed the border from Congo.
Uganda health ministry spokesman Emmanuel Ainebyoona confirmed the death of the 50-year-old woman overnight.
Her 5-year-old grandson was the first confirmed death from Ebola in Uganda on Wednesday. The boy’s 3-year-old brother also is infected.
It’s believed to have been spread to Uganda after a family exposed to the disease quietly crossed the border from Congo.
Everyone is now expectant, watching, waiting for the World Health Organisation to declare this outbreak a public health emergency of international proportions.
This usually means an increase in resources.
More than 1,400 people have died in this outbreak declared in August in eastern Congo, one of the world’s most turbulent regions, where rebel attacks and resistance by community members wary of authorities have badly hampered Ebola containment work.
At the back of everyone’s mind is the West African Ebola Epidemic which spread through Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia. Between 2014 and 2016 28,616 people were infected and 11,310 were killed.
Authorities on Wednesday said the family had traveled from Uganda to Congo because the boys’ grandfather was ill. WHO said he died of Ebola, and officials believe those who mourned him became infected, too.
While returning to Uganda, the group including several other children was stopped at a Congolese border post. A dozen members of the group already showed symptoms of Ebola. While awaiting transfer to an Ebola treatment unit, six family members slipped away and crossed into Uganda on an unguarded footpath, authorities told The Associated Press.
Authorities in both countries now vow to step up border security.
Uganda has now identified seven suspected Ebola cases, and about 50 contacts of the family are being traced there. Five family members who did not cross into Uganda have tested positive for Ebola, Congo’s health ministry said.
Francis Tumwine of the Ugandan Red Cross explains how they are trying to screen people going through the border.
“All are supposed first to wash their hands as you can see. After washing their hands, then they go into the screening house for temperature taking. Than after that, we are very privileged to be having a thermal scanner which is helping us in temperature taking as it scans all the travellers who are passing around. Then in the case where we get someone with high temperature, we consider the temperature threshold 38 and above. So, in case we get someone with high temperature we isolate that person, we have the isolation room up there. We isolate that person for first 15 minutes as we are taking history of that person and we discover what is the cause of (their) high temperature,” says Tumwine.
People who refuse to be checked are being turned back to DRC.

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