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Ebola cases in Uganda drop to 0, last patient discharged

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Health workers use gloves and protective clothing when treating Ebola patients (Credit: WHO)

The number of active Ebola cases in Uganda has dropped to zero, the health ministry announced on Thursday after the remaining patients were released from hospital. It’s another sign that the outbreak may be coming to an end.

An update from Uganda’s Health Ministry said all of the six remaining patients had recovered and were released from hospital, taken the number of active cases down to zero. Only one new case was reported during the last 16 days.

The past few weeks suggest that the outbreak is under control but caution is needed as some cases may have gone undetected. It takes a total of 42 days (twice the maximum incubation period) for an outbreak to be declared over.

Two districts, Mubende and Kassanda, remain on strict lockdown with an overnight curfew to prevent the spread of Ebola, and schools across Uganda finished the school term two weeks earlier than planned.

The most recent case was reported on Monday, when a baby who was infected during pregnancy was pronounced dead upon delivery. His mother had already recovered from Ebola. Prior to that, the last case was reported on November 15.

Uganda declared the outbreak on September 20 after a 24-year-old man from Mubende District tested positive for Sudan ebolavirus, which is one of six species of the ebolavirus genus. The strain had not been found in humans since 2012.

At least 164 cases have been reported to date, making it the 8th biggest Ebola outbreak ever recorded. Of those infected, 78 died and 86 recovered, putting the case fatality rate at 48%.

There were seven previous outbreaks of Sudan ebolavirus: 4 in Uganda and 3 in Sudan. Those outbreaks showed an average mortality rate of 57%, which is high but lower when compared to Zaire ebolavirus, which kills about 70% on average.

Current evidence suggests that the ERVEBO vaccine, which is used to control outbreaks with the Zaire variant, is not effective against the Sudan strain. Six vaccine candidates are in different stages of development.

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