Uganda Cleared to Import Trial Ebola Drugs amid Fresh Outbreak

A health worker monitors to ensure that people wash their hands at the Mpondwe Health Screening Facility in the Uganda border town with the Democratic Republic of Congo, on June 14, 2019. - A grandmother in Uganda has died from Ebola, health officials said on June 12, 2019, the second …

Uganda will import trial Ebola drugs after it documented several cases of the virus near its border with the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), the country’s health minister announced on Tuesday.

Health minister Dr. Jane Aceng confirmed that the country will receive a new therapeutic treatment for the Ebola virus with support from the World Health Organization (WHO) after its importation was cleared by the National Council of Science and Technology and National Drugs Authority. Aceng stressed that the new drugs would not decrease the threat of a wider outbreak.

“It is still a trial drug. We can only administer it in research,” she said. “Uganda is ready to go. Our threat of Ebola has not reduced. We shall maintain ourselves in a response mode because the borders are still open and Ebola in DR Congo is not going down and the affected areas are near us.”

Professor Pontiano Kaleebu, the director of Uganda Virus Research Institute (UVRI), explained that there are four separate types of the drug: one made of antiviral antibodies while the other three are monoclonal antibodies.

“If you use them, the number of those who survive increases compared to supportive treatment where they mainly use fluids and nutrition,” he told the East African. 

Over 1,400 people have died as a result of the recent Ebola outbreak in the DRC, the second-largest in history according to the WHO. The outbreak has so far been contained to the eastern DRC, although two have died of Ebola in Uganda after crossing into DRC for a relative’s funeral. Uganda has placed two others displaying Ebola symptoms under isolation. On Wednesday, Aceng sought to reassure lawmakers that the virus had not spread to other parts of the country.

“There is no Ebola in other parts of Uganda. Honorable members, I request you to disregard statements being issued by various people including the media, of Ebola outbreak,” she said. “We only confirm Ebola after we have screened a blood sample three times, not once, not twice, three times; that means we are extremely sure, that is when we say there is Ebola”:

The recent outbreak of the Ebola virus has put border authorities in neighboring countries such as Kenya and Tanzania on high alert given the nature of the cases in Uganda, the first ever documented there. Those who tested positive for Ebola are believed to have evaded authorities by entering the country through “unofficial” border crossings.

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