Home Health Ebola is here: This is what you need to know

Ebola is here: This is what you need to know

by Amanyisa Zadock

The Ministry of Health and the World Health Organization (WHO) have confirmed a case of Ebola Virus Disease in Uganda. Although there have been numerous previous alerts, this is the first confirmed case in Uganda during the Ebola outbreak on-going in neighbouring Democratic Republic of the Congo.

The confirmed case is a 5-year-old child from the Democratic Republic of the Congo who travelled with his family on 9th June 2019. The child and his family entered the country through Bwera Border post and sought medical care at Kagando hospital where health workers identified Ebola as a possible cause of illness. The child was transferred to Bwera Ebola Treatment Unit for management. The confirmation was made today by the Uganda Virus Institute (UVRI). The child is under care and receiving supportive treatment at Bwera ETU, and contacts are being monitored.

Ebola virus disease is a severe illness that is spread through contact with the body fluids of a person sick with the disease (fluids such as vomit, feces or blood). First symptoms are similar to other diseases and thus require vigilant health and community workers, especially in areas where there is Ebola transmission, to help make diagnosis. Symptoms can be sudden and include:

  • Fever
  • Fatigue
  • Muscle pain
  • Headache
  • Sore throat

People who have been in contact with someone with the disease are offered vaccine and asked to monitor their health for 21 days to ensure they do not become ill as well.

The investigational vaccine being used in DRC and by health and frontline workers in Uganda has so far been effective in protecting people from developing the disease, and has helped those who do develop the disease to have a better chance of survival. The Ministry strongly urges those who are identified as contacts to take this protective measure.

Investigational therapeutics and advanced supportive care, along with patients seeking care early once they have symptoms, increase chances of survival.

The Ministry of Health has taken the following actions to contain spread of the disease in the country:

  • The District administration and local councils in the affected area have been directed to ensure that any person with Ebola signs and symptoms in the community is reported to the health workers immediately and provided with advice and testing.
  • The Ministry of Health is setting up units in the affected district and at referral hospitals to handle cases if they occur.
  • Social mobilization activities are being intensified and education materials are being disseminated.

There are no confirmed cases in any other parts of the country.

The Ministry is working with international partners coordinated by the World Health Organization.

The Ministry of Health appeals to the general public and health workers to work together closely, to be vigilant and support each other in helping anyone with symptoms to receive care quickly. The Ministry will continue to update the general public on progress and new developments.

When living in or traveling to a region where Ebola virus is present, there are a number of ways to protect yourself and prevent the spread of Ebola Virus Disease.

While in an area affected by Ebola, it is important to avoid the following:

  • Contact with blood and body fluids (such as urine, feces, saliva, sweat, vomit, breast milk, semen, and vaginal fluids).
  • Items that may have come in contact with an infected person’s blood or body fluids (such as clothes, bedding, needles, and medical equipment).
  • Funeral or burial rituals that require handling the body of someone who died from EVD.
  • Contact with bats and nonhuman primates or blood, fluids and raw meat prepared from these animals (bushmeat) or meat from an unknown source.
  • Contact with semen from a man who had EVD until you know the virus is gone from the semen.

These same prevention methods apply when living in or traveling to an area affected by an Ebola outbreak. After returning from an area affected by Ebola, monitor your health for 21 days and seek medical care immediately if you develop symptoms of the disease.

Treatment

Symptoms of Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) are treated as they appear. When used early, basic interventions can significantly improve the chances of survival. These include:

  • Providing fluids and electrolytes (body salts) through infusion into the vein (intravenously).
  • Offering oxygen therapy to maintain oxygen status.
  • Using medication to support blood pressure, reduce vomiting and diarrhea and to manage fever and pain.
  • Treating other infections, if they occur.

Recovery from EVD depends on good supportive care and the patient’s immune response. Those who do recover develop antibodies that can last 10 years, possibly longer. It is not known if people who recover are immune for life or if they can later become infected with a different species of Ebola virus. Some survivors may have long-term complications, such as joint and vision problems.

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