Medicine

Uganda, at high risk for Ebola, starts vaccinating medics

Uganda, at high risk for Ebola, starts vaccinating medics

Uganda is vaccinating at least 3,000 healthworkers in five districts that border the Democratic Republic of Congo, where an Ebola outbreak has killed at least 180 people. "Uganda has a very porous border with the DR Congo, so we have a lot of refugees and other people crossing through from where there is violence".

In DRC till date, this season, around 300 cases of Ebola have been suspected with 265 confirmed cases of the disease.

If worldwide Ebola containment efforts fail in the Congo, it would mark the first time the virus was not stopped since 1976, when Ebola was first identified.

Recently, the World Health Organization (WHO) said there is not enough valid research to risk the health of pregnant women nor their future child with the investigational vaccine rVSV-ZEBOV.

Dr. Inglesby, who has spoken to Contagion® about this Ebola outbreak in the past, highlighted several red flags that have appeared in this outbreak, despite the strong responses from the World Health Organization (WHO) and worldwide partners. More than 26,000 people in the DRC have been inoculated in a "ring vaccination" policy in which those who have been in contact with an Ebola patient are vaccinated.

More news: Virat Kohli sparks controversy after he asks fan to 'leave' India

The strategy in Uganda involves an experimental vaccine, which officials say will not be given to the public.

Anthony Mbonye, a professor of health sciences at Uganda's Makerere University, said the vaccinations are crucial to stemming transmission "in a highly endemic belt for hemorrhagic fevers". The affected areas in the DRC [North Kivu and Ituri provinces] are about 100km from Uganda's border districts. The conflict slows healthcare workers' attempts to fight the virus.

Ebola was first reported in Congo in 1976 and is named for the river where it was recognized. Since then there have been regular outbreaks across Central and West African countries. The worst outbreak was in Uganda in 2000 and 2001, when 574 people were infected and 261 died. The last outbreak, contained in July, sickened 53 people and killed 33. Once infected only management available is supportive therapy. Some of these combinations include ZMapp, REGN-EB3, the antiviral drug remdesivir and single-antibody drug called mAb114.

Although the "investigational vaccine" has not yet been licensed it was used in previous Ebola outbreaks in Guinea, Sierra Leone and DR Congo at the recommendation of the WHO's group of experts.