Ebola Jumps Borders As Epidemic Rages On

Three cases of cross-border Ebola transmission have been reported in Uganda since the outbreak began in eastern Congo last year, according to the Financial Times. One of the victims, a five-year-old boy, has died of the disease while two of his relatives also tested positive. 

On Wednesday, health experts in both countries were scrambling to understand how the boy's relatives crossed the border on June 9th, and who they may have infected along the way. The boy was taken to a Ugandan hospital after vomiting blood and exhibiting other symptoms, while two relatives of the boy also tested positive for Ebola. Uganda has been heavily screening visitors from Congo for signs of fever, and has vaccinated more than 4,700 health workers against the disease according to a joint statement by WHO and Ugandan officials. 

Uganda’s health ministry said the boy’s mother, who is Congolese but married to a Ugandan and living in the Kasese district of Uganda, had travelled back to Congo to nurse her sick father, who subsequently died of Ebola. On returning to Uganda, the boy had started coughing up blood and vomiting and was taken to Kagando hospital where health workers immediately suspected Ebola. 

A sample of his blood tested positive for Ebola and on Wednesday two of the boy’s relatives were also confirmed to have contracted the disease. -Financial Times

Over 2,000 cases of the disease have been recorded in the Congo over the last 10 months, with over 1,400 deaths since August. It's still the second most deadly Ebola outbreak behind the 2013-2016 West Africa epidemic which killed 11,310 people. While it took seven months for the outbreak to reach 1,000 cases - it took just three more months for that figure to double

Via the Financial Times

Efforts to contain the spread have been hampered due to the extreme turbulence in the region. In April, doctors and nurses working in the heart of the Ebola outbreak threatened to go on strike amid threats of violence and actual assaults. Many locals also think Ebola is a Western scam brought to the country by foreigners to make money off the local population. 

Health workers march in Butembo in April against violence 

The World Health Organisation said an expert committee had been alerted about the possibility of a meeting at which it would have the option to declare the Ebola outbreak a global health emergency.

Mark Eccleston-Turner, a global health lawyer at Keele University, said it was essential that the WHO declared an emergency. “A declaration acts as a clarion call to the international community that this is an outbreak that requires further attention — political attention, including resources and finances,” he said.

While Mr Eccleston-Turner called the spread to Uganda “incredibly disappointing”, he added: “The expertise that Uganda has and the fact that this has been discovered quite quickly gives hope that this can be snuffed out.” -Financial Times

As the Times notes, experts had previously warned that if Ebola jumped borders into a neighboring country, it would mark a serious escalation of a crisis that has proven incredibly difficult to manage. 

According to microbiologist Peter Piot who helped discover Ebola in 1976, eastern Congo is an "extraordinarily difficult environment to control an epidemic because of armed conflict and community mistrust."

Meanwhile - guess which country the United States welcomed most of its refugees from in 2018?