Marburg, Ebola here to stay, say experts
Posted Tuesday, October 15 2013 at 01:00
KAMPALA- The head of disease surveillance department at the Ministry of Health has said Uganda will continue experiencing deadly hemorrhagic fevers like Ebola, Marburg because its located in a hot spot for killer viruses.
Dr Issa Makumbi said the country’s vulnerability is facilitated by the geographical location, climate change, environmental degradation and encroachment on forest cover as well as the country’s porous borders.
“We are in a major hot spot where there is a pool of new and old viruses multiplying at a terrific speed. The climate change has also facilitated the multiplication of these viruses and this makes us vulnerable to outbreaks of this nature,” Dr Makumbi said, while speaking at the researchers’ consultative meeting on hemorrhagic fevers in Kampala at the weekend.
To make matters worse, Dr Makumbi said the country is also located in the yellow fever and Menengitis belt of Africa, the reason Uganda remains prone these deadly diseases.
Environment to blame
“There is widespread degradation of our eco system, and as long as we continue to invade the eco system where these viruses reside, we are getting nearer to the viruses that would have otherwise remained in the wilderness,” he warned.
The epidemiologists at the meeting said such outbreaks will continue occurring if the country does not prepare and build capacity to handle them whenever they occur.
The officials said that there is still lack vaccine, medicines or cure as well as a rapid diagnostic testing kit that can be used at village level.
Currently, samples are transported to the Uganda Virus Research Institute and by the time the results are sent back, the community and health workers are already panicking, a situation Dr Makumbi said would be avoided if the tests can be done at the district.
Meanwhile, in an attempt to develop capacity to respond to local problems, a team of researchers at the College of Health Sciences, Makerere University have started on the process of developing of a paper strip for the rapid detection of ebola and Marburg at any point mostly in homes.
The lead investigator, Dr Misaki Wayengera, said they are currently testing the components used in the development of the kit which is expected to end by the end of this year.