On June 11, the World Health Organization announced that officials have confirmed the presence of Ebola virus disease in Uganda, marking the first known instance of the virus spreading from the ongoing crisis in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. On Friday, officials will gather in a meeting to decide whether the Ebola epidemic should be declared an emergency situation that may potentially impact international populations.
Uganda’s first confirmed case
The World Health Organization revealed on Tuesday that a 5-year-old boy from the DRC who was traveling with family on June 9 started presenting symptoms associated with Ebola. The child was taken to the Kagando hospital in western Uganda, where health care workers suspected he may have contracted the virus. Two days later, officials confirmed the boy was ill due to Ebola, and he died soon after.
In the most recent update, officials have revealed that the deceased child’s grandmother had also been confirmed to have Ebola disease; she, too, has died as a result. A three-year-old boy in Uganda has been confirmed to have contracted the illness, and more than two dozen people who had been in contact with the family are now being watched for signs of the disease.
Emergency meeting over international risk
On June 13, the World Health Organization confirmed that experts will meet on Friday, June 14, to determine whether the Ebola outbreak should be declared ‘a public health emergency of international concern.’ This will be the third time the emergency committee has convened to discuss the potential. During those past meetings, experts concluded that an international declaration wasn’t necessary. The decision in both instances was due to Ebola’s containment within the DRC.
WHO explains that in order to declare this an emergency potentially impacting international populations, experts must determine whether ‘immediate international action’ is required, as well as whether the virus may impact public health beyond the DRC’s border.
The DRC’s Ebola crisis
The Democratic Republic of the Congo has been dealing with an ongoing Ebola outbreak since August 2018; during that time, more than 2,000 cases of the disease have been confirmed, the majority of which were ultimately fatal.
Uganda, a neighboring country, is more stable and developed that the DRC and has been preparing for the disease’s spread beyond the borders. This isn’t the first time Uganda has faced Ebola outbreaks, but is the first instance of the disease spreading from the current outbreak in the DRC. According to WHO, Uganda has already administered the Ebola vaccine to around 4700 health care workers across 165 medical facilities.