Ebola outbreak in Uganda

At least 64 people in Uganda have been infected, with a rare strain of the Ebola virus for which no available vaccine. Approximately 30 people have died. The rapid spread of the deadly virus across five districts in Uganda has alarmed scientists. It fears that the outbreak will be difficult to contain.

What is Ebola Virus?

Ebola is a rare and deadly disease, with death rates ranging from 25% to 90% in previous outbreaks. The first symptoms are usually fever, vomiting, headaches, and fatigue. However the condition can quickly worsen to include organ damage and death.

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What are the main viral species of Ebola Virus?

Human Ebola is caused by two main viral species: Zaire ebolavirus and Sudan ebolavirus. From 2013 to 2016, the Zaire ebolavirus caused a large epidemic in West Africa, spurring the development of vaccines and treatments that have since transformed the fight against Ebola. However, similar therapies for Sudan ebolavirus, which is causing the current outbreak in Uganda, are still in clinical trials. The most recent outbreak of this species occurred in Uganda in 2012.

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According to Fiona Braka, an emergency-response programme manager at the World Health Organization Regional Office for Africa in Brazzaville, Republic of Congo, the situation is dire.

How dangerous is Ebola Virus?

There have been five previous Ebola outbreaks in the country, four of which were caused by the Sudan species. An outbreak in 2000, Uganda’s largest to date, resulted in 425 infections and 224 deaths. As a result, Uganda is familiar with the rapid-response measures required to contain the virus, and Ebola is not new to the country.

Sudan ebolavirus had not been known to cause human infection in over a decade, but it was only a matter of time before it reappeared. “These viruses are out there,” says Kartik Chandran, a virologist at Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York City. “And we don’t have a good handle on where they hang out in nature, and how they transmit to people,” he adds.

How the virus transmits?

Ebola outbreaks have been difficult to contain because animals like monkeys and bats can carry the viruses and transmit them to humans. In rare cases, the viruses can remain dormant in a person’s body for months or even years after infection1, only to resurface and spread to others.

Vaccines of Ebola Virus?

Due to the rarity of Sudan ebolavirus outbreaks, researchers have not been able to thoroughly test vaccine candidates. Three vaccines have undergone preliminary tests to ensure their safety in humans, but larger trials to confirm efficacy have not been possible.

The good news is that clinical trials for these experimental vaccines and treatments are being organised at a breakneck pace. Researchers hope to begin trials later this month. In contrast to the more than eight months it took to begin trials during the large West African epidemic, he adds.

The outbreak is currently at a tipping point. Containment measures are being implemented in the hopes of halting the spread. However, there is still concern that it could “really get out of hand.”

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