According to Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF ), a new outbreak of Ebola was declared on September 20 in Uganda. As of October 12, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC ) reported 74 confirmed cases and 39 deaths, yielding a mortality rate of 52.7%. Four of these deaths have been among healthcare workers. This newest outbreak is drawing attention from the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention and the World Health Organization (WHO) because the etiologic agent is the Sudan strain of Ebola. GlobalData epidemiologists predict that global containment efforts and lessons learned after both Ebola and COVID-19 outbreaks will be utilized to effectively counteract the challenges of Ebola Sudan and similar viral hemorrhagic fevers.
This is not the first outbreak of Sudan virus disease, or SVD. The WHO notes that there have been seven outbreaks, four of which occurred in Uganda. However, this is the first SVD outbreak since 2012. MSF reports that the West African 2014–16 and DRC 2018–20 outbreaks were due to the Zaire strain, until recently simply called Ebola virus disease (EVD).
There are currently neither vaccines nor treatments available against the Sudan strain. Experts have been able to develop two vaccines and a monoclonal antibody (mAb) treatment against Ebola Zaire, but these resources are not effective against Ebola Sudan. The WHO reports that though the Zabdeno/Mvabea vaccine from Janssen is intended to be cross-protective against all Ebola strains after a 56-day two-dose schedule, it has not been considered appropriate for this outbreak.
Ebola can be difficult to contain. In addition to the wide-ranging incubation period of 2–21 days, early symptoms of EVD and SVD resemble those of malaria or typhoid, which are common in the areas where Ebola strikes. According to the WHO, the first case of the outbreak presented in a community near a gold mine. Miners are highly mobile and there is a risk of flight of infected persons, spreading the virus.
Healthcare efforts are currently underway in the five provinces affected by the outbreak. In the absence of ring vaccination, contact tracing and 21-day isolation measures have been enacted. The CDC reports 668 contacts, 94% of which were under monitoring in the previous 24 hours. MSF notes that decentralized care in the form of local treatment units is a priority during this outbreak, whose effects are twofold. First, a larger number of small centers makes it possible for remote patients to gain access before the disease is too advanced. Second, previous large off-site hospitals in a situation with high mortality engendered distrust among affected populations and hindered containment efforts.
The gravity of both the outbreak itself and the threat of international spread in a post-COVID-19 world has yielded swift global containment and aid efforts. Forbes reports that the CDC has asked healthcare providers to keep Ebola symptoms in mind and take detailed travel records of suspected cases. In addition, all flights containing passengers who had been in Uganda within the previous 21 days will be routed to five select airports to undergo Ebola screening. On October 12, the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention hosted a meeting in Uganda concerning the outbreak, which included Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone, countries affected by the 2014–16 Ebola Zaire outbreak. That same day, the CDC hosted a webinar on the subject for healthcare workers. Application and efficacy of lessons learned from previous epidemics will become apparent as this outbreak unfolds.