Misinformation hampers Uganda’s fight against new Ebola outbreak |  Global health

Misinformation hampers Uganda’s fight against new Ebola outbreak | Global health

Misinformation hampers Uganda’s fight against new Ebola outbreak | Global health

Standing a few meters away from the cluster of Kasanda district offices in the center UgandaSam Kasamba’s face is a picture of disbelief.

He just realized that the public meeting was going on Ebola he attends not to food distribution or when the 21-day lockdown imposed in Kasanda and Mubende districts will end.

“If not taken seriously, Ebola can wipe out an entire region,” Uganda’s health minister, Dr. Jane Ruth Acheng, told the crowd. However, Kasamba remains undeterred.

Even that 53 people died of Ebola In Uganda, and 136 have been infected since September, it seems to worry him. He then repeats one of the conspiracy theories circulating in the community. “I hear someone’s grandmother died of old age and they say it was Ebola. A lie,” he says.

An Ebola outbreak was announced in Mubende on September 20, causing immediate concern to medical professionals as there is no vaccine for this strain of the virus. Cases of the Sudanese strain have spread to the capital Kampala, 150 km from Mubende. 18 cases have been confirmed until now – prompting the World Health Organization to upgrade the country’s risk level from high to very high.

Misinformation hampers Uganda’s fight against new Ebola outbreak |  Global health
Uganda’s Minister of Health, Dr. Jane Ruth Acheng addresses doctors and nurses at Mubende Referral Hospital. Photo: Badru Katumba/AFP/Getty Images

Bars, places of worship and entertainment were closed and curfews were imposed in Mubende and Kasanda last month.

Fewer people can be seen on the streets of Mubende, and there are fewer cars and boda-boda motorbikes on the roads.

The normally bustling market, known for its roadside grills selling plantains and beef and chicken stalls, is quiet. Sometimes, young people gathered in small shops and malls call out to passing cars to see if they finally have the food the government promised to send to see them through the lock. Children in uniform can still be seen walking the roads to school.

But coming so soon after the Covid pandemic, the outbreak and lockdown have been met with fatigue that has turned to indifference.

Marion Logoze, a nurse at Madudu Health Center in Mubende
Marion Logoze, a nurse at Madudu Health Center in Mubende. Photo: Caroline Arriba

Marion Logoze, a nurse at Madudu Health Center in Mubende, one of five Ebola treatment units set up to fight the outbreak, is familiar with the views expressed by Kasamba.

“They talk like that until they become positive,” he says. “Even as they sit here waiting for their results, they claim this disease is a lie.”

Disbelief helps explain why the body of a Muslim man who died of Ebola and was buried by a health ministry team was then dug up and reburied by family and friends because he was not properly buried according to Islam by placing them in a grave. risk of infection.

“It’s good now, I have two Muslims in my funeral team, it can’t happen again,” said Godfrey Ekuka, who heads the funeral team.

Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni has blamed the rise in cases on people seeking treatment from traditional healers. But Mpuga Teribirye, Uganda’s national inspector and president of Mubende Traditional Healers, denies this. “As soon as I heard about the outbreak, I took it upon myself to make sure all my people were protected and not handling sick people,” he says. “In reality, no traditional healer is sick.”

People line up as food is handed out from a truck.
People line up for food distribution during the blockade in Mubende. Photo: Hajarah Nalwadda/AP

Annette Nampenja’s family may have contracted the virus after she and her three-year-old son, who has special needs, visited a small clinic in Mubende in late September. The clinic has unknowingly just treated an Ebola patient. When the discovery was made, the clinic searched for 500 people who were there at the same time and needed to be tested.

“I’ve never felt anything like it,” Nampeña says of the ordeal that followed. Nampenja, her husband, daughter and son all contracted the virus. His daughter died. The rest of the family were bedridden for weeks.

“Look at my son’s lips,” she says, pointing to the visibly frail boy’s pink scars. “I know he had problems before, but at least my son started walking, now he can’t.”

Anet Nampenja with her son.
Anet Nampenja with her son. Photo: Caroline Arriba

Nampenja did not expect the stigma that followed after the family left the hospital. “I have a shop in Madudu Mall, people no longer come to buy anything from me because they think I have Ebola,” he says.

Organizations working with the ministry, including Mildmay Uganda, a health NGO and Unicef, are now offering support programs to people discharged from hospital, as well as educating people on prevention and holding gatherings to help reintegrate survivors into their communities.

“It starts with community involvement. telling people what to do if they are exposed, showing how it spreads and empowering them to make better decisions,” said Alexander Chimbaru, WHO’s Public Health Emergencies Adviser. “This starts with leadership, communities and individuals.

“The outbreak is still moving, but I trust Uganda to manage,” he says. “When there was an outbreak Ebola in Sierra Leone, the people who helped us build the system were from Uganda. These are the same people here today.”

Men return a stretcher used for suspected Ebola victims to an ambulance after washing.
Men return a stretcher used for suspected Ebola victims to an ambulance after washing. Photo: Hajarah Nalwadda/AP

Andrew Bakainaga, WHO regional health systems adviser in Uganda, says surveillance mechanisms are in place to track the disease. “We know that we cannot close the borders. Many of them are porous and communities mix freely. But we are ensuring that all countries bordering Uganda have enhanced surveillance, and if the threat increases, WHO has a responsibility to bring it to the attention of each member state.”

Daniel Kyabainze, director of public health at Uganda’s Ministry of Health, confirms that there are three potential vaccines that could be used against the Sudanese strain of Ebola in various stages of review. Makerere University in Kampala is looking into the findings.

“Globally, there are no approved vaccines against Ebola caused by the Sudan virus,” Kyabainze said. “For now, this outbreak will be managed without vaccines, as was done last time.”

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