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A great day for the country’: Uganda declares an end to Ebola outbreak

A great day for the country’: Uganda declares an end to Ebola outbreak

Control measures including lockdowns have halted the spread of the virus after less than four months

An Ebola awareness van in Kampala, Uganda, October 2022.
Ugandan authorities introduced control measures to bring the Ebola outbreak to a swift end. An Ebola awareness van in Kampala in October 2022. Photograph: Abubaker Lubowa/Reuters

Since 20 September, 56 people have died from the virus, which is spread through body fluids, and there have been 142 confirmed infections.

The country has reported no new infections in more than 42 days – twice the maximum incubation period of the virus, a World Health Organization benchmark for a country to be declared Ebola-free.

“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,” said health minister Dr Jane Ruth Aceng Ocero on Wednesday. “The magic bullet has been our communities who understood the importance of doing what was needed to end the outbreak, and took action.”

The latest outbreak of the Sudan strain of the virus was one of the worst Uganda has experienced in two decades. There is currently no vaccine against the strain.

The outbreak began in Mubende district in central Uganda and spread to neighbouring Kassanda. Cases were also reported in the capital, Kampala. The two districts were placed under months-long lockdowns.

“This is a very great day for the country,” said Emmanuel Ainebyoona, a health ministry spokesperson. “I am confident to say that we have handled this situation in the shortest amount of time possible.”

He acknowledged that the lockdowns had affected people’s livelihoods, but added: “These restrictive measures were able to contain the outbreak from spreading to other parts of the country.”

The Uganda Red Cross said it would not immediately pull out from affected areas.

A medical attendant disinfects a man's rubber gloves outside a Hospital
Health workers among dead in Ugandan Ebola outbreak
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Trials for a vaccine against the Sudan strain are under way. Government officials signalled an intention to continue to develop vaccines from the Sabin Vaccine Institute in the US, Oxford University, the Jenner Institute in the UK, the Serum Institute of India and the International Aids Vaccine Initiative.

“That is where our focus will be – research, training, capacity building and ensuring that we build resilient health systems,” said Ainebyoona. “We are going to be better prepared to respond to any other health emergencies that may arise.”

Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the WHO director-general, congratulated Uganda for its “robust and comprehensive response”. “Lessons learned and the systems put in place for this outbreak will protect Ugandans and others in the years ahead.”

This is the first outbreak of the Sudan strain of Ebola in Uganda since 2012.

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