Almost a year after the first patient was confirmed in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), the Ebola virus has finally jumped across the border into Uganda. Earlier this week, at least two people in Uganda died from Ebola. Investigators believe they had recently traveled to the DRC, however, according to a report from Al Jazeera, medical detectives working on the current Ebola outbreak are finding it difficult to pinpoint the sites of infections in about half of all patients.
Some experts who have been tracking the outbreak, which is the second largest in history, claimed the jump across the border was inevitable, since the outbreak was concentrated near the border. Yet, the World Health Organization (WHO) said on Friday the situation still does not constitute a Public Health Emergency of International Concern (PHEIC). The organization also recommended against any travel and trade restrictions with the DRC.
“It was the view of the Committee that the outbreak is a health emergency in DRC and the region but does not meet all the three criteria for a PHEIC under the IHR (International Health Regulations),” said the WHO is a statement. “While the outbreak is an extraordinary event, with risk of international spread, the ongoing response would not be enhanced by formal Temporary Recommendations under the IHR.”
The WHO did recommend that population movement mapping and emergency preparedness in the region continue. However, a sobering report from the Associated Press released on Saturday indicated that Ugandan healthcare workers lack supplies and infrastructure necessary to effectively treat the virus, and things such as personal protective equipment are being doled out in very small numbers.
“We don’t really have an isolation ward,” said Pedson Buthalha, the Bwera Hospital’s administrator while speaking to The Associated Press. “It’s just a tent. To be honest, we can’t accommodate more than five people.”
Currently, the outbreak has resulted in 2,108 cases as of Wednesday. Of those, 1,411 patients have died. Of the total number of patients, “58% (1,187) were female, and 29% (598) were children aged less than 18 years,” the WHO said in a statement. Six percent of the cases have been identified as healthcare workers, and at least two of the patient care givers in Uganda who responded to the recent Ebola cases there may have been exposed.