Dangerous strain of Ebola spreading fast in Uganda – vaccines and treatments aren’t working against it

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By Agencies

At least four healthcare workers are dead in Uganda as a dangerous strain of Ebola spreads in certain sections of the country. Early estimates suggest at least two dozen people have been killed by the virus since the outbreak began in September.

This particular kind of Ebola, called Sudan Ebolavirus, is different from the one existing vaccines were designed to combat. There are no vaccines or treatment for it yet.

“This is another wake-up call for the international community,” Kartik Chandran, a virologist at Albert Einstein College of Medicine told The Wall Street Journal. “The medical community has to keep working on vaccines and therapeutics that work on multiple strains, not just a single strain.”

Stop shaking hands, authorities warn

For now, health authorities in Uganda are stressing that people should not shake hands, or treat the virus with home remedies like ginger and garlic, saying instead that sick patients should be isolated away from others as quickly as possible.

Ebola can spread easily via touch, or contact with bodily fluids including saliva, blood, vomit, semen, and urine. Unlike COVID, Ebola is not transmitted before people show symptoms, which can include fever, sore throat, vomiting, diarrhea, and unexplained bleeding or bruising. But, Ebola can come on suddenly, and early symptoms can easily be mistaken for malaria or other illnesses.

A midwife and a doctor are dead

The Sudan Ebola strain is slightly less deadly than the Zaire Ebolavirus that existing vaccines can prevent — but it is still very fatal. World Health Organization estimates suggest the fatality rate for Sudan Ebolavirus can range anywhere from 41% to 100%.

Official numbers from the ministry of health in Uganda tally nine confirmed deaths and 43 confirmed Ebola cases in this outbreak so far, but there are likely many more. According to the WHO, the outbreak may have began about three weeks before the first case was noticed, and some transmission chains have not been tracked at all, especially in a region near an active gold mine, where people are traveling in and out frequently.

Nabisubi Margaret, a 58 year old health worker died Wednesday “after battling the disease for 17 days,” Dr. Jane Ruth Aceng, Uganda’s minister of health, tweeted. She is at least the fourth healthcare worker who has died during the current outbreak. The others included a midwife, a health assistant, and a doctor.