One person has died from Ebola since an outbreak of the disease was declared in Uganda on September 20. As of September 22, a total of seven cases were confirmed, prompting a reaction of the World Health Organization (WHO). The United Nations agency has since deployed medical supplies and expert staff to support Ugandan epidemiologists and public health officials in containing the outbreak.
The recent death has been caused by the rarer Sudan strain of the Ebola virus, which was last seen in Uganda ten years ago. Prior to that, Uganda had experienced an outbreak of Ebola caused by the same strain in 2000, leading to the death of 226 people out of the 425 infected.
Uganda also faced another outbreak of the disease in 2019 but of the more common Zaire strain of the virus which was linked to cases in nearby Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). The DRC is also currently dealing with an outbreak of the Zaire strain.
According to Dr Matshidiso Moeti, World Health Organization Regional Director for Africa, and the local Ministry of Health, Uganda’s previous expertise with tackling Ebola outbreaks gives room for hope that the response will be swift and adequate. Such a response would include quick identification of patients and contacts, isolation, and conducting ring-vaccination campaigns for high-risk populations.
However, it should be said that the vaccines currently available against Ebola are not effective against all virus strains. While vaccines have successfully handled outbreaks caused by the Zaire strain, they have proven less effective against the Sudan strain.
Six candidate vaccines are currently under development which could prove more effective against the Sudan strain, and discussions with producers are ongoing at the WHO to establish if some of those could enter clinical trials at this stage and be used for containing future outbreaks.