Kampala- Uganda has had its fair share of Ebola outbreaks, the deadliest being the first in 2000, which killed 200 people and infected 450 others.
The 2000 epidemic remains the worst in the country’s history in terms of the number of people it killed as well as those who got infected.
According to Prof Anthony Mbonye, the director of Health Services, Clinical and Community Services, so many people died because both the health workers and the community were not aware of the disease.
“We didn’t know how to respond. We were not prepared but most importantly, we had no experience in dealing with the “strange disease” as it was called at the time,” he says.
He added that the subsequent outbreaks built the community awareness but also strengthened the country’s response strategies.
The Disaster Preparedness and Response Focal Person at World Health Organisation (WHO) Uganda, Dr Solomon Fisseha, says Uganda has put in place strong mechanisms to deal with any such outbreaks beginning with a surveillance system.
When the disease has been confirmed, Dr Mbonye says a team of experts and supplies for protection are dispatched, and guidelines issued both for health workers and the public, on how to handle the infected people for treatment as well as burial of the dead.
An isolation centre is set up at the nearest health facility so that every confirmed case is put there to minimise contact with the rest of the community and stop further transmission.
Whenever there is a disease outbreak, the Ministry of Health, through the media issues a statement informing the public about the presence of the disease and how to look out for symptoms, as well as prevention measures.
During the first Ebola outbreak, two nursing students and a doctor contracted the disease and died, along with several other people. One of the reasons that have been fronted by experts is that the health workers had no knowledge about the disease.
Over time, health workers have been trained on how to manage people with Ebola, but also in social mobilisation.
WHO recently classified Kenya as a ‘high risk’ country for Ebola, but the Ministry of Health said they would not screen passengers entering the country from Kenya, since they see no threat.
At the Malaba and Busia border points, immigration officials said they have not been equipped to stop the virus from entering the country.
West Africa, especially Liberia, is currently battling Ebola, the most deadly case in the world in recent times.