Multi-Sectoral Efforts to Control Ebola Outbreak in Uganda through National Task Force

By Joseph Byonanebye
August 14, 2012

With great admiration for the dedicated health care and public health practitioners, I am glad to be part of the National Response Task Force against the Ebola outbreak in Uganda. Doctors, nurses, public health professionals, epidemiologists, and leaders are working closely to prevent and control the spread of the deadly disease.

The Ministry of Health Uganda set up a National Task Force, which on a daily basis monitors the situation, lays out its plans and puts interventions in place. The task force consists  coordination, case management committee, surveillance and laboratory, and social mobilization committees. As part of this effort, Conservation Through Public Health (CTPH) and African Field Epidemiology Network (AFENET) are updating the disease outbreaks portal ( to enable people get updates about the outbreak, share press releases, and learn more about the situation.

Other active organizations and agencies on the task force include the Ministry of Health (MoH), Ministry of Agriculture Animal Industry and Fisheries (MAAIF), United Nations Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO), World Health Organization (WHO), African Field Epidemiology Network (AFENET), Centers for Disease Control (CDC), United States Agency for International Development Emerging Pandemic Threats Program (EPT) through PREDICT and RESPOND Programs under Development Alternative International (DAI), Japan International Cooperation Agency  (JICA), Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF), The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), Uganda Red Cross Society-URCS, Kampala City Council Authority (KCCA), Uganda People’s Defence Force (UPDF), Tullow Oil Uganda, and district local governments in Uganda. Much has been done and much more needs to done.

The Ebola virus is a lethal virus that causes hemorrhagic fevers, which are illnesses marked by severe bleeding (hemorrhage) and organ failure. The Ebola virus lives in animal hosts, and humans can contract the viruses from infected animals. After the initial transmission, the viruses can spread from person to person through contact with body fluids or contaminated needles. No drug has been approved to treat Ebola virus. People diagnosed with Ebola receive supportive care and treatment for complications. Scientists are coming closer to developing vaccines for this deadly disease.

To prevent Ebola efforts focus on avoiding contact with the viruses. The following precautions can help prevent infection and spread of Ebola:  Avoid traveling to areas of known outbreaks. Before traveling, find out about any current epidemics, wash your hands frequently. As with other infectious diseases, one of the most important preventive measures for the Ebola virus is frequent hand-washing. Use soap and water, or use alcohol-based hand rubs containing at least 60 percent alcohol when soap and water aren’t available, Avoid wild meat. Avoid buying or eating any meat where you are not sure of the preparation or origin, Avoid contact with infected people. In particular, caregivers should avoid contact with the person’s body fluids and tissues, including blood, semen, vaginal secretions and saliva. People with Ebola are most contagious in the later stages of the disease, Follow infection-control procedures. If you’re a health care worker, wear protective clothing — such as gloves, masks, gowns and eye shields. Keep infected people isolated from others. Carefully disinfect and dispose of needles and other instruments. Injection needles and syringes should not be reused, don’t handle remains. The bodies of people who have died of Ebola disease are still contagious. Specially organized and trained teams should bury the remains, using appropriate safety equipment (AAR Ebola fact sheet).

As a public health expert, I commend a multi stakeholder approach in response to the outbreak, with participation of government agencies, non-governmental agencies, as well as the local and international community. Diseases can cross borders; we have to work together. The good news remains – diseases are preventable!

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