Uganda vaccinates at-risk health workers as Ebola spreads in Congo

A healthcare worker from the World Health Organisation gives an Ebola vaccination to a front line aid worker

The move to vaccinate health operatives even before detecting a single case, came as a precaution after a number of health workers died from the virus while treating Ebola patients in a previous outbreak.

The deteriorating security situation in the DRC has complicated efforts to get the Ebola outbreak under control: across the country, local populations and humanitarian workers assisting them have come under attacks by armed groups, necessitating the deployment of a large United Nations peacekeeping mission.

The outbreak began shortly after the government declared an end to another outbreak in the west of the country in June and lauded those involved for managing to swiftly contain the spread of the disease.

The minister explained that the vaccine is only available for frontline health workers who are at high risk of contracting EVD as they manage suspected cases.

The deadly Ebola virus has infected 300 people in Congo since an outbreak erupted nearly two months ago in the country's east, the health ministry said on Tuesday.

The vaccine is, therefore, being used on a compassionate basis, to protect persons at highest risk of the Ebola outbreak, under a "ring vaccination" strategy, which is similar to the approach used to eradicate smallpox.

It is highly likely that Uganda may import EVD from DRC given the closeness of the current epicenter, the high population movements due to trade, social-cultural connections and easy accessibility of health services in Uganda.

This preventive exercise has begun in the Ntoroko district which is located in central Africa.

With high fatality rates ranging from 50 per cent to 89 per cent, the highly contagious Ebola virus could cause a range of symptoms including fever, vomiting, diarrhoea, generalised pain or malaise and in many cases internal and external bleeding. "This is targeted vaccination", Dr Aceng emphasized.

Recently, the World Health Organization (WHO) said there is not enough valid research to risk the health of pregnant women nor their future child with the investigational vaccine rVSV-ZEBOV.

He assured of its potency and ability to protect them effectively.

The five districts prone to the disease include Ntoroko where the drive will start from on Wednesday, Kabarole, Bunyangabu, Kasese, and Buindibugyo.

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