A highly contagious strain of the deadly Ebola virus in Uganda is causing a quick and significant rise in the number of cases and fatalities, the World Health Organization said.
Uganda health officials declared an outbreak of Ebola a week ago. Five days later, on September 25, they confirmed the disease had infected 36 people, killing 23.
It is the first Ebola disease outbreak caused by the Sudan virus in Uganda since 2012. A vaccine is available to protect adults from becoming infected with the more common Zaire strain of Ebola. However, a similar vaccine does not exist for the Sudan virus.
Ana Marie Henao-Restrepo, WHO co-lead R & D Blueprint for epidemics in the Health Emergency Program, said several possible vaccines are under development.
“We have identified there are three candidate vaccines that have … clinical data, data from humans on safety and homogenicity. It is specifically designed to protect against the Sudan virus and that could be tested in a randomized trial in Uganda, if the Ugandan authorities decide to do so,” she said.
The Ebola virus is spread by contact with an infected patient’s blood or bodily fluids. The WHO reports the median age of cases in Uganda is 26, with 62 percent female and 38 percent male. The disease has a fatality rate of 41 percent.
WHO spokeswoman Carla Drysdale said WHO experts are working with Uganda’s experienced Ebola control teams to reinforce diagnosis, treatment and preventive measures.
“While there is no vaccine to treat Sudan Ebola virus, other health measures such as swift detection, community engagement, isolation of patients, and early supportive care have proven to save lives in similar outbreaks,” Drysdale said. “We must raise awareness in the community that seeking treatment early significantly increases chances of survival.”
While Uganda is struggling to prevent Ebola from spreading, the Democratic Republic of the Congo declared on Tuesday the end of an Ebola outbreak, which emerged in North Kivu Province six weeks ago. North Kivu, which has a vaccine against the Zaire virus, experienced only one confirmed case of Ebola and no deaths.