Uganda has had a second incursion of Ebola from the neighboring Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), two and a half months after three cases were imported in June.
Ugandan officials confirmed Ebola in a 9-year-old DRC girl who crossed from the DRC with her mother yesterday, Uganda's Ministry of Health said in a news release today. The news comes as Ebola cases in the DRC top 3,000 and deaths exceed 2,000.
Quick identification of symptoms
The mother and daughter crossed into Uganda through the Mpondwe border post in Kasese District, the same district that reported the three earlier cases. A point-of-entry screening team recognized the girl's high fever, body weakness, rash, and unexplained bleeding from her mouth and isolated her.
The girl has been transferred to Bwera Hospital's Ebola treatment unit (ETU), located in Kasese near the DRC-Uganda border. The earlier patients were also treated in that ETU. Testing by the Uganda Virus Research Institute in Entebbe on blood samples from the girl confirmed Ebola virus infection.
Ugandan health officials said she did not come into contact with anyone but her mother since entering Uganda. "The Ministry of Health re-echoes its call to the general public to cooperate with health workers, Immigration and Security officials to ensure effective screening at all entry points to prevent the spread of Ebola to other parts of the country," the agency said in the release.
Bwera is located 472 kilometers (about 300 miles) from Kampala, Uganda's capital.
The new case represents the most recent expansion of the disease from its main hot spots in North Kivu and Ituri provinces. In addition to the previous cases in Uganda, on Jul 14 officials confirmed the first case in Goma, North Kivu's capital, and a second case in Goma was confirmed on Jul 30.
Then on Aug 16 DRC officials reported the disease had spread to a third province, South Kivu. The disease has also recently spread to the remote North Kivu area of Pinga.
DRC cases reach 3,004; deaths 2,006
In its update posted today but dated yesterday, the DRC's multisector Ebola response committee (CMRE) said that, of the 14 cases confirmed yesterday, 7 were in North Kivu province, including 3 in Beni, and 1 each in Mutwanga, Kalunguta, Katwa, and Mabalako. Six were in Ituri (4 in Mambasa and 2 in Mandima), and 1 was in South Kivu, in Mwenga, where all the previous South Kivu cases have been confirmed.
The CMRE also said that, of the four confirmed deaths yesterday, two were in the community, which raises the risk of further disease spread. No new cases were confirmed in healthcare workers, so that number stands at 156, or about 5% of all cases.
The number of people vaccinated with Merck's unlicensed VSV-EBOV vaccine has climbed to 206,774, the CMRE said.
According to the World Health Organization's (WHO's) online dashboard, however, cases today rose by 7, to reach 3,004. And deaths rose by 8, eclipsing another somber milestone and reaching 2,006.
In response to the new case totals, the country director of the nonprofit group Oxfam, Corinne N'Daw, said in a news release, "This is yet another grim milestone for the Ebola outbreak in DRC and no end seems to be in sight."
She added, "Worryingly the Ebola screening process, which relies on using a thermometer to spot any potential cases, doesn't seem to be working. Several of the most recent confirmed cases are reported to have passed through a number of screening check points unnoticed. It's crucial that local health workers on the frontline get much better training and equipment."
N'Daw also said the recent geographic expansion of cases has spread responders too thin. She added, "Preventative work takes time and resources, but we know from our experience it works. Given the trends we're seeing in how the virus is spreading, we should not be waiting for places to become an Ebola hotspot before engaging with communities."
Aug 29 Uganda Ministry of Health news release
Aug 28 CMRE update
WHO online Ebola dashboard
Aug 29 Oxfam press release