By Gift Briton

The Ebola disease outbreak in Uganda is over. This comes barely four months after the first case was confirmed in 2022.

“Uganda has shown that Ebola can be defeated when the whole system works together, from having an alert system in place to finding and caring for people affected and their contacts to gaining the full participation of affected communities in the response. Lessons learned and the systems put in place for this outbreak will protect Ugandans and others in the years ahead,” Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Word Health Organization(WHO), Director-General, while congratulating the country for its robust and comprehensive response which made control of the virus possible.

The Ebola disease outbreak was the country’s first Sudan ebolavirus outbreak in a decade and its fifth overall for this kind of Ebola. Before the declaration, a total of 164 cases (142 confirmed and 22 probable), 55 confirmed deaths, and 87 recovered patients had been reported.

Furthermore, more than 4000 people who came in contact with confirmed cases were followed up and their health was monitored for 21 days. Overall, the case-fatality ratio was 47%, with the last patient released from care on 30 November when the 42-day countdown to the end of the outbreak began.

“Uganda put a swift end to the Ebola outbreak by ramping up key control measures such as surveillance, contact tracing and infection, prevention and control. While we expanded our efforts to put a strong response in place across the nine affected districts, the magic bullet has been our communities who understood the importance of doing what was needed to end the outbreak, and took action,” said Dr. Jane Ruth Acero, Uganda’s Minister of Health.

Sudan ebola virus is one of the six species of the Ebola virus against which no therapeutics and vaccines have been approved yet. However, WHO notes that Uganda’s long experience in responding to epidemics allowed the country to rapidly strengthen critical areas of the response and overcome the lack of these key tools.

“With no vaccines and therapeutics, this was one of the most challenging Ebola outbreaks in the past five years, but Uganda stayed the course and continuously fine-tuned its response. Two months ago, it looked as if Ebola would cast a dark shadow over the country well into 2023, as the outbreak reached major cities such as Kampala and Jinja, but this win starts off the year on a note of great hope for Africa,” said Dr Matshidiso Moeti, WHO Regional Director for Africa.

During the outbreak,WHO worked with a large range of partners, including vaccines developers, researchers, donors and the Ugandan health authorities to identify candidate therapeutics and vaccines for inclusion in trials.

Three candidate vaccines were identified and over 5000 doses of these arrived in the country with the first batch on 8th December and the last two on 17th December. The speed of this collaboration marks a milestone in the global capacity to respond to rapidly evolving outbreaks and prevent them from becoming larger.

“While these candidate vaccines were not used during this outbreak, they remain the contribution of Uganda and partners to the fight against Ebola. The next time the Sudan ebolavirus strikes we can reignite the robust cooperation between developers, donors, and health authorities and dispatch the candidate vaccines,” said Dr. Yonas Woldemariam, WHO Representative in Uganda.

Although the outbreak in Uganda has been declared over, WHO notes that health authorities are maintaining surveillance and are ready to respond quickly to any flare-ups and a follow-up programme has been put in place to support survivors.

Moreover, the health organization has also urged neighboring countries to remain on alert and to continue strengthening their capacities to detect and respond to infectious disease outbreaks.