Africa-Press – Angola. The African continent must plan effectively and without international help an effective response to disease outbreaks, because during pandemics Africa is “on its own”, defended, Wednesday (12), an international public health official.
As assistance often never materialises, African nations must fill gaps in their response to outbreaks, said Ahmed Ogwell, acting head of the African Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, hours after the capital’s first Ebola death was announced. Ugandan, Kampala.
“This is not the first outbreak of the Sudanese strain of Ebola virus here in Africa and particularly in Uganda,” he said, adding: “We unfortunately at this time do not have a rapid diagnosis for this particular strain, nor vaccines.”
Ogwell was speaking in the Ugandan capital Kampala, where African public health officials and others are meeting to plan cross-border cooperation in response to Ebola.
According to the experts, the 54 African countries did not receive adequate international support in the recent health crises and had difficulties in obtaining vaccines against Covid-19. Ogwell lamented the failure of the international community to help African countries improve their ability to test monkeypox and control its spread. He said help had not arrived in Africa, where more monkeypox deaths were reported this year than anywhere else in the world.
“Recently, during the pandemic, when we saw the number of smallpox cases growing here in Africa, we issued a global alert, but no help came,” he said.
He added: “In fact, today, as we see the end of the pandemic, there is still no help reaching Africa for monkeypox. This means that we need to check our reality and, for us, the reality is that when a public health crisis is big, like the pandemic, Africa is on its own”.
The epicenter of Uganda’s Ebola outbreak is a rural community in the center of the country where health workers were not quick to detect the contagious disease that manifests as a viral hemorrhagic fever. Although Ebola began to spread in August, officials initially described a “strange disease” that killed people. Ebola has now infected 54 people and killed at least 19, including four healthcare workers. One of the victims is a man who sought treatment at a hospital in Kampala and died there.
Ebola can be difficult to detect at first because fever is also a symptom of malaria. The disease is spread through contact with an infected person’s bodily fluids or contaminated materials. Symptoms include fever, vomiting, diarrhea, muscle pain, and sometimes internal and external bleeding.
There is no proven vaccine for the Sudanese strain of Ebola, but plans are underway to test a possible vaccine in a small group of Ugandans who have had contact with Ebola patients.
“As Ebola is a priority disease for Africa, the absence of rapid diagnoses and the absence of a vaccine means that we have a gap in the way we prioritize our diseases and the tools we need to respond to them,” he noted. Ogwell.
“As Africa, we now have to do things differently, bearing in mind that most of the time we will be on our own”, he reiterated.
The World Health Organization (WHO) representative in Uganda, Yonas Tegegn , said last week that the country is working on protocols for the importation of two types of vaccines, although their effectiveness against the unusual Sudanese strain responsible for the outbreak has not yet been proven. One of these vaccines is being developed by Sabin Vaccine Institute (North American) and the other by researchers from the University of Oxford, United Kingdom.
“Right now, Ugandan and international scientists are working to get these vaccines to Uganda. But we still don’t have enough data to be able to distribute them on a large scale, and supplies are scarce,” Tegegn said at a press conference.
The Sudan strain of Ebola is not only less transmissible but also has a lower mortality rate (40 percent out of 100%) than Zaire (70% – 100%).
The Ebola outbreak in Uganda already affects five districts in the center and west of the country, according to Tegegn. This is not Uganda’s first Ebola outbreak. The disease has killed thousands of people across Africa since its discovery in 1976 in the neighboring Republic of Congo.
First death from Ebola in Kampala
Uganda recorded, on Friday, the first death from Ebola in the capital, Kampala, since the beginning of the epidemic declared in the country on 20 September, health authorities announced.
This is a man infected with the virus who traveled from the district of Mubende, in the center of the country, where the origin of the outbreak was recorded, to the country’s capital.
The mortal victim was identified as having been infected, but fled to receive treatment from a traditional healer. Realizing that the treatment was not working, he asked to be taken to Kiruddu Hospital in Kampala, according to Ugandan Health Minister Jane Ruth Aceng, speaking to the country’s media on Tuesday.
Also according to the official, the man fled Mubende about a week ago to a neighborhood in the capital’s metropolitan area, and died last Friday, a day after being admitted to the hospital. Aceng said that the medical teams that treated the man were aware of the danger of contagion and that they protected themselves, because the patient arrived at the hospital seriously ill. Forty-two people with whom the man may have been in contact have been identified and are being followed. According to the minister, there are currently no other confirmed cases of Ebola in Kampala, but the city and surrounding districts are considered to be at high risk.
The body of the man, who had identified himself with a false name to avoid arrest, was recognized by the leaders of the Mubende community, where he was buried. According to the latest official figures, the Ebola outbreak in Uganda now accumulates a total of 54 confirmed cases, including 19 deaths, as well as 20 other probable deaths before the introduction of the tests that confirmed it.