By Mariam Abele
KAMPALA, Uganda (AA) – “We want all of us, around this family to be injected, because we are scared and want to get protection from Ebola.” Says Muhindo Mary.
Muhindo is one of the 96 contacts to the confirmed Ebola cases in Kasese district that have been listed by the World Health Organization for the Ebola trial vaccine.
The vaccination is taking place in Kagando, Bwera and Mpondwe in Kasese district in western Uganda, bordering the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).
Since August 2018, over 2,000 people in DRC have been infected with Ebola out of which over 1,200 have died.
The residents in Kagando are particularly being vaccinated after it was revealed that the five-year-old boy and his grandmother who both died of the Ebola virus on June 11 and 12 respectively spent the night at one of the homes.
Confirmed cases will have to stay in their homes under strict surveillance for 21 days.
“We’ve told them not to have so many movements, they can’t go for parties or church gatherings until we say they are now safe.” Says Masereka Robinson a local health assistant.
Unfortunately, he adds, cultural beliefs and understanding of the danger of the disease is still wanting despite the health messages being transmitted.
“There are those in the community who say that people are being bewitched. Others say God has brought this Ebola so that people can be eliminated because they are sinning,” Robinson said.
Since the Ebola declaration on the June 11, the Ministry of Health has only confirmed three deaths.
“As of today, there’s no confirmed case in Uganda. However, two suspected cases are admitted at Bwera Ebola treatment Unit,” Dr Ruth Aceng Uganda’s Health Minister said in a statement.
The World Health Organization has spearheaded the vaccination process in Uganda.
“We are going to the communities where the confirmed cases were identified and vaccinating those families in what we are calling ring vaccination,” said Benjamin Sensasi, WHO health promotions and communications officer in Uganda.
The WHO has been vaccinating health workers in 13 districts in Uganda since 2018 following an outbreak of Ebola in the western district of Bundibugyo also bordering the DRC.
Sensasi stresses: “Health workers are the first contact persons with patients who might be carrying the virus.”
Sensasi said that they have tried to ensure safety of health workers.
“By one, training them on infection, prevention and control, proving them with infection control material such as gowns and gloves and most important, giving them the Ebola virus vaccine,” Sensasi said.
- Business slowed down
“Before the Ebola outbreak we had great business, with Congolese coming to Uganda to buy cooking oil, beans and plantain and Ugandans travelling to Congo,” Adriano Isaac, a retail shopkeeper told Anadolu Agency.
“But after the Ebola outbreak business has slowed down so much, we are not making money, we live in fear because of this disease,” he added.
Even though Uganda seems to be making progress in controlling further spread of the disease, challenges remain.
“We need digital thermometers for the confirmed case contacts to self-monitor as well as non-contact infrared thermometers for the contact tracing team, health facilities and airfields,” Aceng said.
Other essentials include sample collection supplies such as vacutainer tubes, needles, swabs, ziplock bags, biohazard bags and 10 percent formalin.
Ebola -- a tropical fever, which first appeared in 1976 in Sudan and the DRC -- can be transmitted to humans from wild animals.
It can also reportedly spread through contact with body fluids, infected persons or of those who have succumbed to the virus.
Ebola caused global alarm in 2014 when the world's worst outbreak began in West Africa, killing more than 11,300 people and infecting an estimated 28,600 as it swept through Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone.