Health care workers in Uganda started vaccinating high-risk health workers from a deadly Ebola virus infection this week. This is the first time that a vaccination campaign has begun before the actual outbreak.
This caution is accepted because healthcare workers are concerned that the infection would spread to the country from the frontiers they share with the Democratic Republic of the Congo. At present, the outbreak of the Democratic Republic of the Congo is the worst. Fear of transmitting cross-border infections is reinforced by armed conflicts in the region, officials say.
Ebola virus attacks the illustration of the immune system: Image Credit: Crevis / Shutterstock
To date, around 300 cases of Ebola with 265 confirmed cases of illness have been suspected in this season. A report by the World Health Organization (WHO) says that until now, the infection has killed 151 individuals in the country. The WHO statement states: "In the case of vaccination of health workers in the first place against Ebola Virus, even before Uganda discovers a single case, the health authorities are cautious because they have learned bitter lessons from previous outbreaks."
The vaccine administered is still experimental, but it has been shown that it is protected in clinical trials. Only about 2,000 health workers working near the DRC border in the north of the province of Kivu will be operated, the WHO says, and would not be available to the general public.
"It is very likely that Uganda will import Ebola virus from the DRC due to the proximity of the current epicenter, high population movements for trade, socio-cultural links and easy access to health services in Uganda," the WHO said. Individuals in the DRC who have been in contact with an ebola patient have been vaccinated and those who have been in contact with these contacts have also been vaccinated. This is called a ring vaccination strategy and is an effective method for the eradication of highly contagious diseases, officials say.
Yonas Tegegn Woldemariam, WHO representative for Uganda, said: "In the previous [Ebola] outbreaks, Uganda has lost healthcare workers, including a recognized dr. Matthew Lukvii, who took care of the patients. Scientists believe that such an invaluable life would be solved if there were a vaccine at that time. "
Jane Aceng, Minister of Health of Uganda in a statement, added: "The risk of public health of the cross-border ebola transfer to Uganda [from DRC] has been assessed as very high at the national level. Affected areas in the Democratic Republic of the Congo [North Kivu and Ituri provinces] are approximately 100 km from Uganda's border districts. A doctor who was not diagnosed by Ebola could have been provided with a medical assistance facility in Uganda. In this context, health professionals and workers on the front are threatened with contact with [Ebola] example. "
Ebola is a deadly viral infection that was first discovered and identified in 1976. Since then, there have been regular outbreaks in the countries of Central and West Africa. Uganda was hit even before 2000 and 2001, when the infection killed 261 people and infected 574 individuals. The infection in Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea has killed 11,000 people and has infected 28,000 in the period between 2014 and 2016.
The infection can kill 20 to 70 percent of the infected, depending on the strain of the virus. When only available treatment is infected, it is a supportive treatment. There are some experimental antibody-based therapies that test the treatment of the disease. Some of these combinations include ZMapp, REGN-EB3, antiviral remedivir and an antibody called mAb114.
The latest vaccine to be used was developed by Merck and not yet licensed.