On September 20, 2022, Uganda’s health authorities declared an Ebola Virus disease (EVD) outbreak after a case was confirmed by the Uganda Virus Research Institute. The case is a 24-year-old male from whom a sample was taken after the investigation of six suspicious deaths in the Mubende district in the country’s central region. This outbreak is the first occurrence of the Sudan strain that Uganda has experienced in over a decade. Note that the Sudan variant of Ebola is endemic in Uganda and Sudan and the disease it causes is not clinically distinguishable from other Ebola strains.
According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), EVD is a potentially deadly disease with occasional outbreaks that occur mostly in Africa. EVD most frequently affects humans and other primates like monkeys and gorillas. There are a number of variants of EVD of which four have caused human disease including the Sudan strain.
Prior to this outbreak, Uganda has experienced four other outbreaks due to the Sudan strain. Proximity to the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) caused Uganda to also experience an outbreak caused by the Ebola Zaire strain imported from its neighboring country. Based on Uganda’s experience with EVD outbreaks, the country is currently deploying robust control measures against the outbreak with the World Health Organization’s (WHO) support, which is deploying rapid response teams and logistical support in the central region to quickly curtail the spread of the epidemic.
From experience, case fatality rates of EVD caused by the Sudan strain range from 41% to 100%. This is a deadly disease that needs to be responded to very quickly, carefully, and thoroughly with measures such as Risk Communication and Community Engagement (RCCE) activities, isolation of confirmed and suspected cases, contact tracing, medical countermeasures such as ring vaccination of immediate and associated contacts, and case management among others. Additionally, Ebola rapid diagnostic tests, treatment, and vaccines have only been evaluated for the EVD-Zaire strain. The current outbreak provides an opportunity to test available diagnostic, treatment, and prevention tools against the EVD-Sudan type. There is hope that Uganda’s experience will allow a quick deployment of these measures to halt the spread of infections according to Dr Matshidiso Moeti, WHO regional director for Africa.