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Uganda Returns 5 to DRC; All Had Contact With Ebola Victim

FILE - An ambulance waits next to a health clinic to transport a suspected Ebola patient, in Goma, Democratic Republic of Congo, Aug. 5, 2019.
FILE - An ambulance waits next to a health clinic to transport a suspected Ebola patient, in Goma, Democratic Republic of Congo, Aug. 5, 2019.

Uganda’s Health Ministry on Friday evening repatriated five Congolese people who had contact with a 9-year-old girl with Ebola to the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

The girl, also of Congolese origin, traveled with her mother Wednesday from Goma in the DRC and entered Uganda through the Mpondwe border post for medical care.

She was subsequently isolated and transferred to the nearby Bwera hospital Ebola Treatment Unit, where a blood test confirmed Thursday that she was positive for the Ebola virus.

Dr. Joyce Moriku Kaducu, Uganda’s state minister for primary health care, said even though Bwera’s Kasese district has the capacity to handle a disease outbreak, including an Ebola outbreak, it was too late to save the girl.

“Unfortunately, the girl passed on early in the morning today. Upon the request of the father, plans are underway to repatriate the body to DRC for safe and dignified burial,” Kaducu said.

Five return to DRC for care

Since June, Uganda has vaccinated 8,000 health workers who have been in the proximity of infected patients. Kaducu said health workers observed the appropriate practices regarding infection, prevention and control while the girl was under treatment, but the Uganda surveillance teams listed five people who had come into contact with the girl. Three shared the Ebola treatment unit with the girl, while two were tending to the patients, including the girl’s mother.

“All these five people, they are of Congolese origin. And they were transported in the same ambulance with the confirmed case from Mpondwe point of entry to Bwera hospital. Four of these contacts have been taken back to DRC for vaccination and for appropriate and effective follow-up,” Kaducu said.

The fifth contact, the mother of the confirmed case, is scheduled to return to DRC for burial of her daughter.

Vaccine in limited supply

While Uganda has managed to control Ebola from spreading beyond Kasese district, availability of the vaccine, manufactured by the U.S. firm Merck, is limited.

WHO Country Representative to Uganda Yonas Tegegn Woldemariam said that after the latest case, 300 doses were delivered to Kasese on Friday.

“Currently, there is a shortage of the Merck vaccine globally,” Woldemariam said. “So, we are using it with a strict criteria of who is at risk, so that we can protect those people. And, it is also a tool to interrupt if there’s any sustained transmission in a population.”

The Health Ministry has reassured the public that the current threat poses no major risks to the rest of the country. A rapid-response team has been dispatched to Kasese to support the district teams to continue with the various Ebola response activities, including case management, community engagement, contact tracing, psychosocial support and vaccination.