Uganda hunting contacts after suspected Ebola patient dies

Thursday September 19 2019

US Ambassador to Uganda Deborah Malac,

Left to tight: US Ambassador to Uganda Deborah Malac, President Museveni, US Secretary of Health and Human Services Alex Azar and Minister of Health Jane Ruth Aceng at State House in Entebbe yesterday. PHOTO BY ABUBAKER LUBOWA 

By FRANKLIN DRAKU

Uganda has started tracing contacts associated with a Tanzanian doctor who died of suspected Ebola disease.

President Museveni made the revelation during a joint press briefing with the visiting US secretary for Health and Human Services at State House in Entebbe.

Mr Museveni said health officials have started tracing all those who came into contacts with the suspected case before she went back to Tanzania for examination and possible isolation.

The 34-year-old Tanzanian, whose identity has not yet been revealed, had been studying a postgraduate degree at Makerere University.

She succumbed to Ebola-like sickness last week, raising fears that she had contracted the disease while in Uganda.

However, the Tanzanian government dismissed the claim, saying she died of a different disease, although they could not confirm the disease.

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“The case that went to Tanzania, I am sure we shall defeat it. Here locally, we have already started following up that person, the contacts she had here, and where she was staying in the hostel to examine them,” Mr Museveni said.

The President said Uganda is well prepared to contain any Ebola threat because of its past experience in containing the epidemic and also high level of motivation by the health workers.

He thanked the US government for providing both technical and financial support to combat the DR Congo Ebola outbreak and for working closely with Uganda and other frontier countries, bordering the DR Congo.

“We always stump the Ebola outbreak quickly because somehow we have some experience. We are grateful to the American government for their role in combating this disease. In the past, we didn’t have facilities to quickly diagnose such diseases so we had to take the samples to Atlanta. However, CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) helped us in building a modern laboratory where we can actually test the samples and where found negative can start the management programmes,” he said.

The President also said while Ebola infects and kills faster, it is not a big threat like other diseases such as cancer which take long to detect. He said with Ebola, within seven to 21 days, it can be detected and such cases can be isolated for proper management.

“This one here is not a big threat. In fact, it is easier than these other ones that hide within the body systems for a long time and by the time they show, it is difficult. With Ebola, it is aggressive and a sprinter and within 100 metres it is already tired, so we can easily deal with it,” he said.

Mr Alex Azar, the visiting US secretary for Health, hailed Uganda for its commitment, saying with one of the best laboratories and virus research institutes in the world, Uganda has become a model for many countries in research on infectious diseases.
He said annually, the United States government contributes more than $500m for healthcare in Uganda, which he said is one of the largest healthcare commitment the US makes within a country.

“There is a reason for that because it is money well spent. Uganda performs, it delivers. It has one of the finest laboratories, one of the finest viral research institutes in the world. It serves as reference laboratory not only for Uganda, but for the region, highly respected. It is Uganda that discovers so many of the emerging infectious diseases,” Mr Azar said.

He said the US will continue to procure Ebola vaccines from the manufacturers to vaccinate communities in Uganda, DR Congo and other neighbouring countries to prevent further spread of the epidemic.

Tighter border security
Dr Jane Ruth Aceng, Uganda’s minister of Health, said a combined multi-sectoral team has been deployed at the all the entry points and some porous border points to monitor and screen all those coming to Uganda. She said the team comprises medical officials, village health team members, soldiers from Uganda People’s Defence Forces, police and immigration officers, among others.

Dr Aceng said with the team in place, Uganda is well placed to manage all emergencies that may arise. At least four people have died of Ebola in Uganda, although all the cases originated from the DR Congo.

“We have a multi-sectoral team that works day and night on the designated entry point and also what you would call porous border entry points. These teams use both walk-in scanners and portable devices to screen all people entering the country from DR Congo, so we have a very effective monitoring team on the ground,” Dr Aceng said.

fdraku@ug.nationmedia.com

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