The World Health Organization and Ugandan authorities are seeking nearly $18 million to help contain the Ebola outbreak in the country for the next three months. The initiative comes as Uganda registers the death of the first health worker in the current Ebola outbreak and brings the total number of confirmed cases to 35, with seven deaths.
The death of the first medical worker during the current outbreak was revealed by Dr. Jane Ruth Aceng, Uganda’s minister for health, as she spoke to the media after a high-level closed-door meeting organized by the WHO in Kampala
On Thursday, the ministry announced that six health workers had been confirmed to have the Ebola Sudan strain and two more were in critical condition.
The health worker who died, a Tanzanian national, was moved to an isolation facility at a hospital in the neighboring district of Fort Portal in the Mubende district, where he had handled the first Ebola case.
Because of what Aceng called some mistakes, more health workers have been exposed to Ebola.
“Today, we have 35 confirmed cases. And we have lost seven people, unfortunately. And one of them is a medical doctor,” Aceng said. “It is true that we have 65 health workers who have been exposed. Now all these 65 health workers are under quarantine.”
The current Ebola Sudan strain so far has affected four districts in Uganda, including Mubende, with the epicenter in Madudu sub county, Kyegwegwa, Kassanda and now the Kagadi district.
Aceng revealed the main commonality with the four affected districts.
“People from Madudu run to these districts because they thought there was witchcraft in Madudu,” she said. “And they were running away either to find a safe haven or to reach out to relatives to help them … treat what to them was a strange disease that they did not understand. However, with the various interventions that we have had, the people of Madudu have now understood that it is Ebola and not witchcraft.”
Regardless of what course the spread of the Ebola Sudan strain will take, there is still no vaccine. Health officials in Uganda, including those from the WHO, are mobilizing and seeking the funds to control the outbreak.
Dr. Yonas Tegegn Woldermariam, the WHO representative to Uganda, said he is worried the money being sought might not cover all costs.
“If we go into the preparedness, we are talking, even for the three months, three times or four times that amount,” he said. “Plus, there are things which we take for granted, assuming the system will provide them. Those are additional costs like transportation, like fuel, like human resources, which we have to consider to also fund as we go ahead.”
The Sudan Ebola virus is less common than the Zaire Ebola virus, and there is currently no effective vaccine. The Sudan Ebola virus was first reported in southern Sudan in 1976. Although several outbreaks have been reported since then in both Uganda and Sudan, the deadliest outbreak in Uganda was in 2000, claiming more than 200 lives.
Uganda’s last Ebola outbreak, in 2019, was confirmed to be the Zaire ebolavirus. It last reported a Sudan ebolavirus outbreak in 2012.