The World Health Organization declared Uganda free from Ebola on Wednesday, 42 days since the last infection was recorded.
The outbreak of the Sudan strain of the virus, which started in September, has left 55 people dead. The declaration was made at a function in Mubende district, now known as the epicenter of the fifth outbreak of the Ebola Sudan virus in Uganda.
Dr. Jane Ruth Aceng, Uganda’s health minister, noted that the major drivers of transmission were household infection and gatherings at private facilities. The three main portals of transmission were physical contact, sexual contact and trans-placental transmission.
“I now confirm that all transmission chains have been fully interrupted,” Aceng said. “And take this opportunity to declare that outbreak is over and Uganda is now free of active Ebola transmission.”
The Mubende district registered the highest number of confirmed cases with 64 patients and 29 deaths.
At the onset of the Ebola outbreak, Naiga Juliet worked her usual routine as a laboratory attendant at Mubende Referral Hospital. With about seven health workers dying due to Ebola, many people were afraid to approach patients.
Juliet, who later was to be the Ebola laboratory sample coordinator, recalled that on September 17, a patient was admitted who tested positive for Ebola the next day. That was the start of the Ebola outbreak, and a followup of contacts was quickly carried out.
“I took off those samples. They were eight patients, six turned out positive. I was in panic,” Juliet said. “I had to notify my lawyers and my family about what might happen. I was traumatized, psychologically tortured. Because even my colleagues feared and they didn’t even enter there. But me, actually, I knew how to put on the PPE [Personal Protective Equipment], practicing infection, prevention and control. That’s what saved me.”
By the end of October, the neighboring Kassanda district registered 12 cases within two days, prompting health authorities to open up an Ebola treatment unit there.
Nabuuma Maska, a resident of Kassanda district, has adopted a third name, Kawonawo, literally meaning survivor. Maska said she visited a sick relative, unaware that the relative had Ebola and would die soon after from the virus.
Maska told VOA that three days later, she showed symptoms of Ebola, including severe headache, bleeding through the nose, diarrhea and vomiting.
She said she called the ambulance and was taken to hospital, then lost consciousness for three weeks. When she regained her senses, she said she was greeted with health workers saying, “welcome back, welcome back.”
Maska said she has since faced social stigma in her village.
She said her family suddenly ran away from her, and her landlord kicked her out of her house for failure to pay her rent. She said she used to own a business but lost it, and now can’t afford to buy food or pay for shelter.
By the end of the pandemic, Kassanda district registered 49 confirmed cases and 21 deaths among the 143 cases and 55 deaths countrywide.
Ugandans have been urged to continue being vigilant and report any person in the community that displays Ebola-like symptoms.
The Health Ministry, working with international partners, said it continues to look for the possible source of the outbreak and the reason why Uganda tends to suffer from Ebola outbreaks from July to October.