Uganda reports Ebola Sudan virus outbreak

Ebola worker putting gloves on
Ebola worker putting gloves on

UNMEER, Martine Perret / Flickr cc

Uganda's health ministry today announced an Ebola Sudan virus outbreak in the central part of the country, with one confirmed case involving a man who died and eight suspected infections in people who are now receiving medical care.

The appearance of the Ebola Sudan virus, one of six ebolavirus species and distinct from the Zaire strain that triggered recent outbreaks in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), marks Uganda's first outbreak involving the deadly strain in more than a decade.

Virus confirmed in 24-year-old man

The Uganda Virus Research Institute confirmed the virus in samples from a 24-year-old man. On Twitter, the health ministry said the man, who was from Mubende district, had Ebola symptoms and died from his infection.

The clinical team obtained samples for testing. The health ministry added that it has sent a rapid response team to support surveillance, contact tracing, and case management.

In a statement, the World Health Organization (WHO) said the health ministry had been investigating six suspicious deaths in the district this month and that eight suspected patients are receiving medical care in a healthcare facility.

Matshidiso Moeti, MBBS, who leads the WHO's African regional office, said the WHO is working closely with Uganda's health officials and are supporting efforts to roll out control efforts. "Uganda is no stranger to effective Ebola control. Thanks to its expertise, action has been taken to quickly detect the virus, and we can bank on this knowledge to halt the spread of infections."

Globally, there have been seven earlier Ebola Sudan outbreaks, four in Uganda and three in Sudan, with the most recent in Uganda in 2012. In 2019, Uganda battled a small Ebola Zaire outbreak related to an imported case in neighboring DRC.

No approved vaccine for Sudan strain

The WHO said though ring vaccination with VSV-EBOV (Everbo, made by Merck) has been used to curb recent Ebola Zaire outbreaks, the vaccine hasn't been approved for use against other strains. It said a vaccine from Johnson & Johnson may be effective, but it hasn't been tested against Ebola Sudan.

The agency noted that the case-fatality rate of Ebola Sudan infections in past outbreaks has ranged from 41% to 100%, though early supportive treatment may reduce that rate.

This week's top reads