Uganda: MSF concludes emergency Ebola response

An emergency response to an outbreak of Ebola in Uganda by the international medical humanitarian organisation Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) has come to an end. The MSF team handed over the Ebola treatment centre it had set up in Uganda’s western Kibaale district to the Ugandan Ministry of Health.

After the outbreak was declared in late-July, MSF’s emergency team responded by setting up the treatment centre in Kagadi hospital, implementing measures to prevent the disease from spreading, and training Ugandan health staff on caring for patients while minimising the risks of contagion. The team also gave technical and logistical support to the Ministry of Health in providing psychosocial care to patients, families and health staff, and educating the community about the disease. 

As part of a plan to be prepared for future epidemics in Uganda, MSF also restored a treatment unit in Mulago hospital in the capital, Kampala.

Uganda has developed the capacity to respond to Ebola emergencies,” says MSF emergency coordinator Olimpia de la Rosa. “We can rely on the capability of Ministry of Health staff to take over and manage Ebola cases with all safety guarantees.”

This latest outbreak of Ebola has claimed 17 lives. After the treatment centre was set up, 69 suspected and five confirmed cases of Ebola were reported. However, there have been no confirmed cases since 3 August. An Ebola outbreak is officially considered at an end once 42 days have elapsed without any new confirmed cases.

The Ebola epidemic appears to have been successfully contained thanks to the combined efforts of the Ugandan Ministry of Health, MSF, the US Centers for Disease Control (CDC), the Ugandan Red Cross and the World Health Organization (WHO). The experience of these organizations in dealing with the recent outbreak is likely to help the response to future outbreaks of Ebola.

Ebola haemorrhagic fever is a disease with no treatment or vaccine. It was detected for the first time in humans in 1976 in Zaire (now Democratic Republic of the Congo). It is transmitted through bodyily fluids and depending on the strain of the disease, has a mortality rate of between 25 and 90 per cent. However, some patients make a full recovery, including a pregnant woman in Kibaale district who lost her baby but went on to survive the disease.