News that Uganda has sent a team of health experts to tackle the Ebola outbreak in West Africa reassures of global efforts to stop the haemorrhagic fever. Already, the Ebola fever in Guinea, Sierra Leone and Nigeria, has killed more than 930 people. So it must be stopped because it kills between 25 and 90 per cent of its victims. More so, the disease has no known vaccine, and cure. Ebola patients are likely to survive when promptly treated.
The reality of the deaths in West Africa has already touched Ugandans as a Ugandan doctor in Liberia died of Ebola last month. Moreover, Ugandans are still traumatised by Ebola fever outbreaks in Gulu, Mbarara, Bundibugyo, Luweero, and Kibaale districts. In 2000–2001, Ebola left dead more than 100 people in Gulu District and another 13 in Kibaale District in July 2012.
Worryingly, one person has been isolated at Entebbe Grade B hospital after he arrived at Entebbe International Airport with Ebola fever-like symptoms on Thursday. And given that Ebola easily spreads from one person to another through direct contact with bodily fluids, health experts must strengthen surveillance in Uganda. But this close observation must not be limited to well-established entry points as Entebbe, and Malaba and Busia.
Other border crossings should be secured, too. This requires that medical surveillance teams be made available at all cross-border points in Lamwo, Moyo, Yumbe, and Rakai districts.
By now, public awareness campaigns on Ebola should have been stepped up and people made aware of its spread through direct contact with bodily fluids, including saliva, blood, stool, vomit, urine, and sweat from an infected person. Ugandans should have been woken up to readily tell the symptoms of Ebola as victims tend to die quickly between only two to 21 days. According to WHO, such symptoms include sudden and high fever, intense weakness, muscle pain, sore throat, vomiting, diarrhoea, and bleeding from eyes and gums, and other body openings.
Overall, Uganda should have in place an Ebola management team to contain any outbreak. And it must be now that the Ministry of Health re-awakened Ugandans to Ebola risks.
Should WHO declare a global health emergency, Uganda should be found ready. Keep your environment clean, wash hands with soap often, and avoid roadside foods.
Ugandans have done it before and can again stop Ebola fever.