As Uganda struggled to control the spread of the deadly Ebola virus, Health Ministry officials said Friday the cases are gradually stabilizing. This comes after media reports that some leaked documents show the disease could claim 500 lives by next April. The country has recorded 137 Ebola cases and 54 deaths since the outbreak began in September.
Ugandan Health Ministry officials have gone on the defense in the face of reports that the deadly Ebola Sudan virus disease is spiraling out of control.
Dr. Jane Ruth Aceng, Uganda’s health minister, told reporters Friday that the country’s cases are gradually stabilizing, as shown by trends in the last week.
An article in the British daily newspaper, The Daily Telegraph, this week reported that leaked donor documents said the ministry had projected 250 deaths by the end of this year and 500 Ebola deaths by next April.
Aceng said the outbreak is being monitored closely and cases are being followed. She said cases in Kampala and other areas are under quarantine, apart from Kasanda district, which has made it easy for authorities to control the epidemic.
The government has placed the two districts most affected by the Ebola outbreak — Kasanda and Mubende — under quarantine for another 21 days, although Mubende is not reporting new cases. The government also is ordering an early closure of primary schools countrywide.
“We have never done any modeling for this Ebola outbreak. Not Ministry of Health, not the scientific advisory committee, not the National Planning Authority. So that modeling was done by them., said Aceng, referring to the newspaper. "In addition, the two districts of Mubende and Kasanda are under quarantine. It does not mean that we are 100 percent sure that no case will pop up anywhere.”
During the press conference, WHO Country Representative Yonas Tegen described the projected Ebola death case numbers as"dramatic."
Tegen said in the last week there have been five confirmed cases and a sharp decrease in the last three weeks. Tegen said he was surprised to see some wrong details claimed to have been taken from the WHO.
“That’s not telling us a doomsday scenario. Even in normal cases," said Tegen. "For example, WHO puts the viral hemorrhagic kits in various places. We keep supplies enough to manage 300, 400, 500 patients. Does that mean that the disease is there? No, it is getting prepared. I would assure you that also WHO didn’t do modeling. I was surprised to see a graph; our graphs are not done like that.”
Local reports also indicate there is a conflict brewing between the minister and donors over how funds to fight Ebola are being managed.
At a press conference last week, U.S. Ambassador Natalie Brown said since the outbreak was declared in Uganda on September 20, the United States had channeled more than $22.3 million through implementing partners to support the government of Uganda-led Ebola response with $6 million available to the Health Ministry. She was quick to urge the proper use of the funds.
“We also, you know, appeal to everyone in government and everyone involved to really do what they can, and to clamp down on corruption," said Brown. "This costs everyone when these funds are leaking out and ending up in someone’s pockets instead of reaching the communities that need the support and resources.”
There is still no proof from scientists on the actual cause of the current Ebola Sudan virus disease outbreak. Last month, the Health Ministry indicated it had caught 189 bats and obtained 320 samples to ascertain the actual cause of the Ebola virus. The Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention country director, Dr Lisa Nelson, said at the press conference that tests are ongoing.
“We are interested in understanding the source of this outbreak. Why Mubende and Kassanda?" asked Nelson. "This will help us in terms of preventing future outbreaks and understanding who is at risk based on the environment and based on the reservoir. What is the source of this very deadly infection? We do know and there have been studies in the past that there are bats who harbor filoviruses including the Marburg virus.”
Uganda acknowledged the disease had started claiming lives in August.
Health officials report 16 admitted cases, 65 recoveries reported, and 4,147 contacts listed for follow-up — all part of the 137 cumulative cases.