NAIROBI, Kenya—Ugandan authorities on June 13 said they confirmed three cases of Ebola in the country’s western Kasese district, prompting fears that the deadly epidemic may spread further.
Ugandan Health Minister Jane Aceng said two of the reported cases have since died, the latest being the 50-year-old grandmother of a 5-year-old boy who died of the virus on June 11, after entering the country from neighboring Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). About 1,400 people have died in DRC from Ebola since an outbreak emerged in August 2018.
The woman died late on June 12, the minister said.
“She will be accorded a safe burial at a public cemetery today [June 13] in Kasese District,” Aceng said.
She said a mission led by top health officials, as well as representatives from the World Health Organization (WHO) and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), has toured the affected region and assured the public that measures have been taken “to improve screening at border points of entry, including the non-official entry points.”
But in neighboring Kenya, health officials said they are on high alert following the new cases of Ebola in Uganda.
“The ministry continues to monitor the evolution of the prolonged Ebola outbreak in DRC, to strengthen the country’s preparedness and response capacity in view of possible spread of the disease,” Kenya’s health ministry said in a statement, adding that “relevant surveillance measures are in place to safeguard the health of all Kenyans.”
According to Kenyan media reports, screening for the virus has intensified at various entry border points, with medical personnel examining travelers coming from neighboring countries such as Uganda, South Sudan, Rwanda, Burundi, and DRC.
According to WHO, although there have been numerous previous alerts, the three are the first confirmed cases in Uganda during the Ebola outbreak that is ongoing in neighboring DRC.
The first confirmed case was the 5-year-old boy from DRC who was traveling with his family on June 9. The family entered the country through Bwera border post and sought medical care at Kagando hospital, where health workers identified Ebola as a possible cause of the child’s illness.
Uganda has previous experience managing Ebola outbreaks.
In preparation for a possible cross-border case during the current outbreak in DRC, officials said Uganda has vaccinated almost 4,700 health workers in 165 health facilities, and disease monitoring has intensified.
Ebola virus disease is a severe illness that is spread through contact with the bodily fluids (such as vomit, feces, or blood) of a person sick with the disease. WHO officials and medics say early symptoms are similar to other diseases and thus require vigilant health and community workers, especially in areas where there is Ebola transmission, to help make a diagnosis.
Ebola is a zoonotic virus disease that is transmitted from animals to humans. The disease spreads through transmission via direct contact with the blood, secretions, organs, and other bodily fluids of infected people and through contaminated surfaces and materials.