Barely a month after the World Health Organization (WHO), declared Uganda Ebola-free, scores of people in Luweero have been isolated following another outbreak. The outbreak was confirmed by the Uganda Virus Research Institute (UVRI) after two people belonging to the same family and a health worker died in Sombwe parish, Nyimbwa sub-county, Luweero district.
Currently, there are five suspects closely monitored by the ministry of Health surveillance team. This outbreak comes on the heels of a Marburg outbreak in Uganda that left over five people dead in south-western Uganda.
However, with the country’s on-and-off attacks, no drug has been approved to treat the Ebola or Marburg viruses. People diagnosed with Ebola or Marburg simply receive supportive care and treatment for complications.
WHO’s revised international health regulations require that countries establish core capacities to address such emergencies at national, sub-national, health facility and community level, as well as at border crossings. In effect, health experts have approved a “one-health approach” which integrates human, animal and environmental health in curbing such outbreaks.
“Previously, different professionals responded to disease outbreaks differently and in isolation but a one-health approach will promote integration of these sectors to ensure holistic and exhaustive management of the diseases,” Dr David Mukanga, the executive director of the African Epidemiology Network (AFENET), says.
He adds that the approach is necessary since 60% of the infectious diseases affecting humans like Ebola, Marburg, anthrax and brucellosis originate from animals. A case in point where the approach has proven effective is in the prevention of tuberculosis and scabies in Bwindi.
However, implementation of the concept requires a new calibre of professionals with skills to monitor, detect, report, manage and prevent diseases which cut across the three sectors.
Dr Thomas Easley, the country coordinator for the Emerging Pandemic Threats (EPT) programme says such a solution must centre on education. Government and its stakeholders must train professionals in the one-health approach.
“It is clear that no one discipline has enough knowledge to prevent the emergence or re-emergence of diseases,” he said.
“Only by breaking down the barriers among agencies, individuals and specialities can we unleash the innovation and expertise needed to meet the integrity of eco systems.”