The Marburg Virus Disease outbreak in Uganda is over

Kampala, 8th December 2017:- After completing two incubation cycles (42 days) without registering any new Marburg Virus Disease (MVD) case, the recent outbreak in Uganda has been officially declared controlled.

“Today, marks 42 days since the death of the last confirmed case which occurred on 26th October 2017, indicating that the MVD outbreak which occurred in Kween and Kapchorwa districts has been contained”, said Honourable Sarah Opendi, Uganda’s Minister of State for Health as she addressed journalists at Uganda’s Media Centre in Kampala. She appreciated the tremendous contribution of partners who have not only helped to contain the outbreak but, also “built the capacity of health workers in Kween and Kapchorwa to be able to respond to any future outbreaks.”

To consolidate the gains and also prevent future outbreaks, the Minister appealed to the public to avoid contact with wild bats especially in caves where they stay which will greatly reduce transmission chances of such diseases. Honourable Opendi further urged the public to avoid direct or close contact with suspected patients should any suspected cases occur in order to reduce the risk of human-to-human transmission in the community. 
She implored health workers to always have a high index of suspicion for Viral Hemorrhagic Fevers and to always observe infection prevention procedures including, wearing gloves and other appropriate personal protective equipment when taking care of ill patients. 

The minister appreciated the invaluable support from partners including the World Health Organization (WHO), the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Médicines Sans Frontières (MSF), United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), United States Agency for International Development (USAID), European Union, Uganda Red Cross Society (URCS), World Vision Uganda, Infectious Diseases Institute (IDI), African Field Epidemiology Network (AFENET), WALIMU, FHI360, JMEDICC, and the media.

Speaking on behalf of the partners who participated in the response, the WHO Country Representative in Uganda, Dr Jack Andouille commended the Ministry of Health for leading a well-coordinated response that resulted in rapid containment of the outbreak, within six weeks. 
“I am glad to note that the response to the outbreak by MoH and partners was swift, focused and consistent with the WHO recommended strategy”, Dr Jack said. “This has been achieved through a coordinated response in all pillars that is, enhanced surveillance, strengthened laboratory support, contact tracing, case management, social mobilization and psychosocial support”, he added.

One of the hallmarks of this outbreak was the deployment of a mobile laboratory by the European Union and the US Center for Disease Control and WHO which enabled real-time reporting of results from the collected blood samples.  The facility was also used to build the capacity of laboratory focal persons from Kapchorwa and Kween districts.

Uganda remains highly vulnerable to Public Health Emergencies due to its geographical location within the Yellow fever and meningitis belts, has reservoirs for Ebola and Marburg in different locations, has porous borders and can easily be accessed through international travel.  But the MVD outbreak, though tragic, has enabled the country to step up yet again, its capacity to deal with such outbreaks.  

As Dr Jack aptly put it: “The country has significantly strengthened its surveillance system; the mobile-phone based reporting has eased communication with health-workers, not only in the previously affected districts but also in all health facilities throughout the country.”

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