The Ebola outbreak currently ravaging the Democratic Republic of Congo is seeing no end in sight. Not only has containment been made all but impossible by the violence in the area of the outbreak, but there is now very high chance that the infection will make its way across the border into Uganda.
The Ebola virus is particularly known for its containment difficulties. Because the virus, which kills about half of those it infects and gets passed on through body fluids, has a long incubation period, healthy-looking people can spread the deadly disease for weeks before any symptoms actually appear.
Last week, Robert Redfield, the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, suggested an alarming possibility: The current Ebola epidemic could be beyond control, he said. Redfield added that the outbreak may also and for the first time since the deadly virus was first identified in 1976, become persistently entrenched in the population.
The 329 confirmed and probable cases of Ebola infection reported so far have made it the largest outbreak in the nation’s history, with no signs yet of slowing down. Militia groups clashing in DRC’s North Kivu Province, the epicenter of the outbreak, have scrambled health workers’ attempts to trace the movements of people exposed to the virus. A massive effort to vaccinate more than 25,000 of the highest-risk people has slowed transmission rates but not yet stemmed the tide. Between October 31 and November 6, 29 new cases were reported in DRC, including three health workers. –Wired
The neighboring country of Uganda is now also bracing for the virus to cross the 545-mile boundary it shares with DRC. The border is porous and very heavily trafficked, with large numbers of local farmers, merchants, traders, and refugees constantly moving through the area. A checkpoint in the region receives 5,000 people on an average day, with the busiest ones swelling to 20,000 twice a week on market days sparking fears and a high probability that the virus will be spread in Uganda.
According to Wired, since the start of the outbreak in the DRC, anyone crossing into Uganda has been subjected to health screenings at official checkpoints. The screenings include a series of questions and non-contact infrared thermometers aimed at the side of the head that read out body temperatures. Fever is one of the first red flags for an Ebola infection. The process isn’t foolproof, however, because symptoms can take up to three weeks to appear, and several of the other common tropical diseases in that part of Africa can also cause a high temperature.