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Uganda Readies Itself To Fight Off Ebola From The DRC Border

A 2007 Ebola outbreak in Uganda, in the border town of Bundibugyo, infected 149 people

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Health workers walk with a boy suspected of having been infected with the Ebola virus, at an Ebola treatment center in Beni, near Congo's border with Uganda. VOA

In Uganda, officials have stepped up measures to prevent an outbreak of the deadly Ebola virus. Ebola has infected 319 people in the neighboring Democratic Republic of Congo since August, killing 198. The border between the countries remains open, and health experts fear the virus will enter Uganda through the cross-border traffic.

The Lamia River marks the border between the Democratic Republic of Congo’s Ebola-infected North Kivu Province and Uganda.

Despite the deadly viral outbreak, Uganda’s Health Ministry says 20,000 people cross the border every week, putting the country at high risk.

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Congolese health workers register people and take their temperatures before they are vaccinated against Ebola in the village of Mangina in North Kivu province of the Democratic Republic of Congo. VOA

Ugandan Jane Biira goes to the DRC side at least twice a week to buy food and charcoal to sell back home.

“We have heard the disease is there but, we have to go out and trade. We are only a little scared, because we have never seen anyone fall ill with Ebola where we go. We buy the merchandise and leave.”

When Biira and others cross into Uganda they get checked at screening points by health care workers and volunteers, like Boaz Balimaka.

“We have the hand-washing, then disinfecting the feet, and screening, then we allow somebody to pass.”

Ebola, WHO, UNICEF, congo, Uganda
A Congolese health worker checks the temperature of a man before the launch of vaccination campaign against the deadly Ebola virus near Mangina village, near the town of Beni in North Kivu province of the Democratic Republic of Congo. VOA

While no Ebola cases have yet been detected in Uganda, it can take up to three weeks for symptoms to appear.

The virus causes a severe hemorrhagic fever that kills at least half the people who become infected.

Even with border screenings, Butogo Town Council head John Kandole says they worry someone with Ebola could slip through.

“Somebody who comes from Congo, we don’t shake with him with hands. Once he comes to buy anything, he buy and go. And the money sometimes we have been fearing to get.”

Ebola, WHO, UNICEF, congo, Uganda
A World Health Organization (WHO) worker administers a vaccination during the launch of a campaign aimed at beating an outbreak of Ebola in Mbandaka, Democratic Republic of Congo, May 21, 2018. VOA

Uganda’s Health Ministry is stepping up preventive measures by deploying an experimental Ebola vaccine for health care and front-line workers along the border.

Jane Ruth Aceng, Uganda’s health minister, says vaccines are also on standy-by.

Also Read: Ebola Not a Global Health Emergency: WHO

“Currently, in Uganda we have 2,100 doses of the vaccine available at the National Medical Stores, and preparations are in high gear, including training of the health workers that are to be targeted.”

A 2007 Ebola outbreak in Uganda, in the border town of Bundibugyo, infected 149 people, killed 37, and took several weeks to be contained. (VOA)

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World Health Organization Says First Local Case of Polio Found in Zambia Since 1995

The U.N. health agency said there is no established link between the Zambia case and the ongoing Congo outbreak

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FILE - A Congolese child is given a polio vaccination at a relief camp near Gisenyi, Rwanda, Jan. 25 , 2002. The WHO says Zambia has reported its first local case of polio since 1995 in a 2-year-old boy paralysed by a virus derived from the vaccine. VOA

The World Health Organization says Zambia has reported its first local case of polio since 1995, in a 2-year-old boy paralyzed by a virus derived from the vaccine.

In a report this week, WHO said the case was detected on the border with Congo, which has reported 37 cases of polio traced to the vaccine this year. The U.N. health agency said there is no established link between the Zambia case and the ongoing Congo outbreak but said increased surveillance and vaccination efforts are needed, warning that “there is a potential for international spread.”

In rare cases, the live virus in oral polio vaccine can mutate into a form capable of sparking new outbreaks.

Nine African countries are currently battling polio epidemics linked to the vaccine as WHO and partners struggle to keep their efforts to eradicate polio on track. Elsewhere, cases have been reported in China, Myanmar and the Philippines.

World, Health, Polio
In a report this week, WHO said the case was detected on the border with Congo, which has reported 37 cases of polio traced to the vaccine this year. Pixabay

On Thursday, WHO and partners are expected to announce they have rid the world of type 3 polio virus.

There are three types of polio viruses. Type 2 was eliminated years ago. That now leaves only type 1. But that refers only to polio viruses in the wild. Type 2 viruses continue to cause problems since they are still contained in the oral polio vaccine and occasionally evolve into new strains responsible for some vaccine-derived outbreaks.

The global effort to eradicate polio was launched in 1988 and originally aimed to wipe out the potentially fatal disease by 2000. While cases have dropped dramatically, the virus remains stubbornly entrenched in parts of Pakistan and neighboring Afghanistan. This year there have been 72 cases of polio in Pakistan after only eight in 2018.

Also Read- US Endorses Smokeless Tobacco as Less Harmful than Cigarettes

In meeting notes from an expert polio oversight board in September, WHO’s Michel Zaffran said the status of eradication was “of great concern,” noting the Taliban’s ban on house-to-house vaccination in Afghanistan. Officials described the program in Pakistan as a “failing trajectory.” (VOA)