Ebola outbreak: Uganda bans public gatherings

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Authorities on Uganda on Thursday banned public gatherings in the Western district of Kasese, where two people have died of Ebola.

Relatives of the two people who died of Ebola were also repatriated from Uganda to Democratic Republic of Congo, where they will receive experimental and therapeutic treatment.

“Hand washing facilities have been put in place, with washing materials like JIK (bleach) and soap. There’s no shaking of hands, people just wave at each other,’‘ local journalist Ronald Kule told Reuters.

While the repatriation means there’s no confirmed case of Ebola in Uganda as of Thursday, three other suspected Ebola cases not related to the family remain in isolation, the health ministry said.

“Uganda remains in Ebola response mode to follow up the 27 contacts (of the family),” read part of a statement from the Uganda’s health ministry.

Meanwhile, Red Cross teams have embarked on an Ebola awareness drive in the Uganda-DRC border area following confirmed cases of the disease.

Managing a porous border

Uganda’s Health Minister Jane Ruth Aceng said challenges remained at “unofficial entry points” between Congo and Uganda, which share a porous 875-kilometre (545-mile) border.

These unauthorised border crossings, known as “panyas” in the local Lukonzo language, are often merely planks laid down across a point in the river, or through forests and mountains where there is no surveillance.

The family that was repatriated on Thursday had crossed from Congo to Uganda earlier this week and sought treatment when a 5-year-old boy became unwell. He died of Ebola on Tuesday. His 50-year-old grandmother, who was accompanying them, died of the disease on Wednesday, the ministry said.

Meanwhile, the World Health Organization announced an emergency committee would meet Friday to determine whether to upgrade its assessment of the situation to “a public health emergency of international concern”.

WHO, in October and again in April, held off declaring the DRC epidemic an emergency of international concern, because the outbreak was contained to one part of DRC.

For the committee to make the emergency call, it must determine that the epidemic “carries implications for public health beyond the affected State’s national border and may require immediate international action”.

If such a declaration is made Friday it will represent a major shift in mobilisation against the disease.

Titi