By Olive Mukahirwa

Health authorities in Uganda have announced that the last person being treated for the recent Sudan Ebola viral outbreak in Uganda has been discharged from hospital. 

“Happy to announce that we discharged the last Ebola patient … God has seen us through this epidemic,’’ Permanent Secretary for Uganda’s Ministry of Health Diana Atwine tweeted on December 2. 

The World Health Organization (WHO) declared the outbreak in Uganda on September 20, 2022. As of November 22, 142 people had been declared infected with Ebola and 56 people had died. Of those, 19 were healthcare workers; seven of them died. Nine Ugandan districts, including Jinja, Kampala, Kassanda, Kyegegwa, Masaka, Mubende, Wakiso, Bunyangabu, and Kagadi, were the most affected by the outbreak. 

WHO warns that although the last patient with Ebola has recovered, the country must wait 42 days to be certified free of Ebola. Health authorities will continue to monitor people who have been in contact with the last Ebola patient for up to 21 days. 

Severe restrictions on movement of the population have been in place since mid-October.  Mayor Michael Ntambi Muhereze of the district of Mubende has complained that the extended lockdown period has caused hunger for many, especially those who operate businesses such as markets, bars, temples, and schools. However, the Ugandan government is maintaining some restrictions for now, especially night travel and gatherings in public places. 

WHO Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus announced in early October that vaccine development for Sudan Ebola is underway, and Director of Operations Fiona Braka at the WHO Africa Division told Agence France-Presse that trials are progressing well. 

“The outbreak has allowed us to advance on the vaccine front with significant progress over the past two months,” Braka said. 

The Sudan Ebola virus was first reported in Southern Sudan in 1976.  Although several outbreaks have been reported since then in both Uganda and Sudan, the deadliest outbreak in Uganda was in 2000, and claimed more than 200 lives. Uganda’s last Ebola outbreak, in 2019, was confirmed to be the Zaire Ebola virus. 

According to the WHO, wild animals are the source of viral infection in humans, which then spreads in the human population after direct contact with bodily fluids and contaminated environments.  The main symptoms are fever, vomiting, bleeding, and diarrhea. Funerals can spread disease if mourners have any direct contact with the body. People who are infected do not become contagious until symptoms appear, which is after an incubation period of between two and 21 days. 

At present there is no licensed medication to prevent or treat illness caused by Sudan Ebola, although a range of experimental drugs are in development. However, two vaccines do protect against Zaire Ebola – the much more deadly of the two strains. One of these has received approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.