Fears grow as Congo's Ebola epidemic spreads to Uganda


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Fears grow as Congo's Ebola epidemic spreads to UgandaPressure was mounting on the World Health Organization today to declare an international emergency after the Ebola epidemic raging the Democratic Republic of Congo spread to Uganda. Last night it was confirmed that a five-year-old boy had been diagnosed with the deadly hemorrhagic fever in Uganda, the first case the country has seen since the outbreak started in neighbouring DRC 10 months ago. The child has been isolated in a special treatment center and at least two family members he was travelling have symptoms of the disease, with diagnostic test results expected later today. The announcement puts new pressure on the WHO to declare the Ebola outbreak – the second-deadliest in history – a global health emergency. It has twice previously resisted doing so partly because the virus had not jumped international borders. An Ebola screening checkpoint at the Bunagana border crossing with Congo, where people are required to wash their hands and feet with a chlorine solution and have their temperature taken Credit: Ben Wise/International Rescue Committee  It is believed the boy entered Uganda either on either Sunday or Monday with members of his family through the Bwera border post. Confirmation of Ebola was made on Tuesday by the Uganda Virus Institute. "The ministry of health and WHO have dispatched a rapid response team to Kasese to identify other people who may be at risk," WHO said. Uganda is more developed and stable than DRC and has been preparing for this eventuality for some time, carefully monitoring the thousands who cross the border each day. The East African nation has had multiple outbreaks of Ebola and other hemorrhagic fevers in the past, although none in the current epidemic. Experts say it is well-placed to contain the outbreak and expect it to do so. The shores of Lake Albert, near the border with Congo Credit: Ben Wise /International Rescue Committee  Nevertheless the spread of the disease has alarmed those responding to what is already the second worst outbreak of Ebola in history. Brechtje van Lith, Save the Children’s country director in Uganda, called for more action and funds to stop the disease spreading further. “Tragically, the first confirmed case in Uganda is that of a very young and vulnerable child. Now is the critical time to step up efforts to make sure that this one case does not become many. The Ebola outbreak is already devastating lives and communites across eastern Congo – action and funds are needed right now to stop it spreading further across the region.” Global Health Bulletin REFERRAL article The International Rescue Committee said the spread of the disease across an international border was a “clear signal that the international community must reset and redouble its efforts”. There have been more than 2,000 confirmed and probable cases of the Ebola virus in Congo since August, with nearly 1,400 deaths. The disease is spread mainly through contact with the sweat or blood of those infected. For the first time an experimental but effective Ebola vaccine is being widely used, with more than 130,000 doses distributed. Uganda has vaccinated nearly 4,700 health workers. Protect yourself and your family by learning more about Global Health Security