By Joseph Hammond
LONDON — Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni has unannounced an immediate travel lockdown for two districts in central Uganda that are currently battling an Ebola outbreak.
“If you are in Mubende and Kassanda districts, stay there for 21 days,” Museveni said in a speech on Saturday.
The lengthy lockdown is due to the fact the virus can incubate for up to 21 days in a host. Only cargo trucks will be allowed into the zone during the lockdown. Other measures include a closure of places of worship and a nighttime curfew.
According to the Ministry of Health’s website the country has recorded 58 confirmed cases and 19 deaths from the current outbreak. The former figure marks an increase of the 54 cases that has been recorded as of Friday.
“The Ebola outbreak is so far limited to a few districts in mid-central Uganda and has been largely contained,” said Chris Baryomunsi, Uganda’s Minister of Information, in an exclusive interview with Zenger News on Friday,” we have already implemented contact tracing and other surveillance measures to minimize chances to of spreading of the virus to other people.”
Baryomunsi is an epidemiologist and former health minister of Uganda. He said that international visitors should not change travel plans to the country of 45 million at present.
The new travel restrictions are meant to stop those potentially infected with the disease from traveling to other parts of Uganda. Authorities don’t consider the virus to have spread to Kampala, the nation’s capital city, despite the city recording one death caused by the virus.
“An individual died in Kampala after being admitted to a hospital though he contracted the disease while in his region, so we don’t consider this to be the first case to have occurred in Kampala,” Baryomunsi. The man was later buried in his home region and was known to health officials as a probable Ebola case at the time of his death. The man’s wife, who had just given birth, has also been infected with the virus.
Ebola is a hemorrhagic virus which is spread through contact with infected bodily fluids. It has been known to kill up to 90% of those who contract the virus. Survival rates for those in hospital are much higher, however. Symptoms can include intense muscle pain, vomiting, diarrhea, and rashes.
Uganda has a long history of fighting the virus, though this is the first outbreak of the Sudanese variant of the virus since 2012. While there is no known vaccine for this variant, the World Health Organization is preparing a Ugandan trial of a new possible vaccine for the Sudanese variant. How the current outbreak began is unclear though cases have been recorded since September.
“The COVID-19 pandemic meant that we had a stockpile of personal protective equipment (PPE) that was available for use to stop this crisis, said Baryomunsi, “more than that, it means the government, medical professionals, have all been tested in facing a crisis like this. Fighting the pandemic and containing an Ebola outbreak involves similar capabilities and we are prepared for this challenge.”
The United States began implementing a health screening for all passengers arriving from Uganda earlier this month. The Center of Disease Control urged vigilance and greater awareness in an October 6th statement regarding the outbreak. The United States has not had a recorded Ebola case since 2014. Meanwhile, the United Kingdom pledged last week approximately $2.5 million in aid to Uganda to fight the outbreak. A man in Israel is under quarantine for possible contact with Ebola in Uganda though an initial test of the individual was found to be negative.