Uganda bans public gatherings in Kasese district amid Ebola fears

Ebola in Uganda

Ebola in Uganda

A second person infected with the Ebola virus has died in Uganda, the health ministry said on Thursday, after a family exposed to the disease quietly crossed the border from Congo.

A panel of 13 independent medical experts on the WHO's Emergency Committee was asked to evaluate the latest evidence and whether to ratchet up the designation of it as posing worldwide concern. [PHEIC] would have been justified.

Dr. Bill Clemmer, with the non-profit IMA World Health, has worked in the DRC for more than two decades and partnered with USAID to help with previous Ebola outbreaks.

But other experts have warned a PHEIC can be a double-edged sword.

On Thursday, WHO's emergencies chief acknowledged the agency has been unable to track the origins of almost half of new Ebola cases in Congo, suggesting it doesn't know where the virus is spreading.

The North Kivu outbreak likely started in late April 2018 but was only recognized as Ebola in late July.

She also said she discourages anyone from holding mass gatherings, where the disease could spread.

The virus has killed more than 1,400 people since its outbreak - the second-deadliest in history - was declared in August past year after emerging in eastern DRC's northern Kivu and Ituri provinces. And while it is still less than one-tenth of the size of the massive West African outbreak that ran from 2014 to 2016, it is proving to be potentially more hard to control.

The outbreak, occurring close to the borders of Uganda, Rwanda and South Sudan, has been like no other. The area has been engulfed in conflict for more than two decades, limiting the response's access to some communities where the virus has been circulating.

According to the WHO, more than 100 attacks on treatment centres and health workers in the DRC have been recorded since the beginning of this year. We have so many confirmed cases, and their contacts have not been followed up.

At a press briefing following the meeting, Dr. Preben Aavitsland, the acting chair of the committee, announced that the outbreak is "a health emergency in the Democratic Republic of the Congo" but that the situation does not yet meet the criteria for being declared a global one.

This week it did cross a border - into Uganda.

The lethal virus crossed into Uganda when a family with small children and their nanny travelled to the DRC to take care of a relative, who later died of Ebola. They slipped into Uganda on Monday.

Uganda's health ministry said the boy's grandmother and a 3-year-old sibling were also diagnosed with Ebola and were now in an isolation unit, adding the 5-year-old had died.

Health workers stand at a non-gazetted crossing point in the Mirami village, near the Mpondwe border check point between Uganda and the Democratic Republic of Congo, June 14, 2019.

Several of DRC's neighbors have been preparing for months for the possibility that infected people might cross into their territory.

According to the WHO, Uganda has vaccinated almost 4,700 health workers in 165 facilities with an experimental drug created to protect them against the virus.

Those preparations appear to have paid off this week.

The World Health Organization (WHO) sent 3,500 doses of a Merck experimental vaccine to Uganda this week, following 4,700 initial doses.

But whether any other people in Uganda have contracted the virus in this incident remains to be seen.

Outreach programs were launched to educate people about Ebola, but Patta said mistrust runs deep in the community, and many people didn't even consider Ebola as big a problem as security.