The World Health Organization is working with Uganda to prevent a deadly Ebola outbreak in the east African nation from spreading to neighboring nations, the global health agency chief said Wednesday.
Health authorities in Uganda have identified 74 confirmed and probable cases of Ebola in five districts, according to the WHO. At least 39 people have died from the disease and 14 others have recovered from the disease. More than 660 people who may have been exposed to the virus are being actively followed.
“Our main focus now is to support the government of Uganda now to quickly control and contain this outbreak to prevent it from spreading to neighboring districts and neighboring countries,” WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said during a global health update on Wednesday in Geneva.
Uganda declared an Ebola outbreak in late September after a person from a village in the country’s central region tested positive for the virus. There are no approved vaccines or treatments for the strain that caused the outbreak, called Sudan Ebolavirus.
The Ebola virus does not spread through the air. People contract the disease through direct contact with bodily fluids from someone who has or has died from the virus. It can also spread through contact with contaminated materials and infected animals.
Ebola is not contagious until symptoms appear, which can be anywhere from 2 to 21 days. On average, it takes about 8 to 10 days for symptoms to appear.
The US last week began directing travelers who have been in Uganda to five airports for health screenings before entering the country as a precaution. The airports are New York’s JFK, Newark, Atlanta, Chicago O’Hare and Washington Dulles. The health screenings apply to travelers who have stayed in Uganda within 21 days of arrival in the United States
Airlines are providing passenger information to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention so the agency can follow up on travelers, a federal health official said last week. This information is also shared with state and local health authorities.
There are currently no known Ebola cases in the United States. In 2014, a man traveling in West Africa was diagnosed with Ebola after arriving in Dallas. The man died and two nurses treating him contracted the virus, although they both recovered. Seven other people who contracted Ebola in West Africa were transported to the United States for treatment during the 2014 outbreak. Six recovered and one died.
The CDC issued an alert last week, urging local health departments and doctors to be on the lookout for patients with symptoms. Healthcare professionals should obtain a detailed travel history from patients suspected of having the disease, particularly those who have been to affected areas of Uganda. The UK Health Security Agency has issued a similar warning in the UK.
Ebola symptoms include unexplained bleeding, bleeding, or bruising, as well as fever, severe headache, muscle and joint pain, weakness and fatigue, sore throat, loss of appetite, stomach pain, diarrhea, and vomiting, according to the CDC.
US Secretary of Health Xavier Becerra last week offered his counterpart in Uganda assistance from the Department of Health.
dr Mike Ryan, head of the WHO’s Health Emergencies Programme, said on Wednesday that the Ugandan government needs more support from the international community to step up on-the-ground surveillance to contain the outbreak. Ryan said not enough health warnings are being issued at the local level.
“We’re seeing good progress,” said Ryan. “It is very important that we are not confident. Ebola brings surprises, infectious diseases bring surprises.”