Travelers flying from Uganda will be funneled to one of five United States airports so they can be screened for Ebola amid an outbreak in that African country, federal officials announced Thursday. Nigeria has also been put on alert as the outbreak continues to spread.
“While there are no direct flights from Uganda to the United States, travelers from or passing through affected areas in Uganda can enter the United States on flights connecting from other countries,” the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention explained in its alert.
While the CDC has ordered the airport screenings, the U.S. State Department said the screenings also apply to U.S. citizens who have been in Uganda, according to a report by Physician’s Weekly. Screenings began on Thursday for some passengers and further travel restrictions will start next week, The New York Times reported. Screenings will include a temperature check and a health questionnaire. Those will be shared with local officials.
The rising death toll from the Ebola virus in Western Uganda is fueling fears in the East Africa region, as authorities and aid agencies rally efforts to contain the deadly virus. At least 10 deaths, 44 confirmed and 20 probable cases have so far been reported according to Rescue.org.
The International Rescue Committee (IRC) has launched a response with the Ministry of Health to raise awareness of the outbreak, especially among frontline health staff as well as activities to strengthen existing IRC-supported health centers in readiness for a potentially widespread outbreak.
Elijah Okeyo, IRC Uganda Country Director said: “We are concerned about the impact the spread of the virus could have and therefore have teamed up with health authorities to boost awareness, especially to frontline health workers who are more exposed to the virus, as well as improving health facility readiness and linking community responders to the currently running IRC health programs.”
Ebola has a high mortality rate, often over 50%, and while the symptoms start with a fever and headache, in the latter stages, the body internally bleeds to death. Because it’s spread through body fluids, such as an infectious person’s blood, vomit, urine, saliva, sweat, or semen, it’s not as infectious as respiratory pathogens, luckily, but there is no cure or vaccine and if it spreads, half of those who get infected could die from it.
Uganda is currently battling one of its largest outbreaks of Ebola. The Ugandan outbreak is caused by the Sudan strain of the virus, for which there are no approved vaccines or treatments. This is why the new outbreak is particularly concerning public health experts. As with Covid-19, the race is now on to find an effective vaccine: there are two potential candidates from GSK and Oxford, and clinical trials are being launched in the middle of this outbreak. -The Guardian
The following are the CDC’s recommendations to prevent getting infected with Ebola:
- Avoid contact with blood and body fluids (such as urine, feces, saliva, sweat, vomit, breast milk, amniotic fluid, semen, and vaginal fluids) of people who are sick.
- Avoid contact with semen from a man who has recovered from EVD, until testing shows that the virus is gone from his semen.
- Avoid contact with items that may have come in contact with an infected person’s blood or body fluids (such as clothes, bedding, needles, and medical equipment).
- Avoid funeral or burial practices that involve touching the body of someone who died from EVD or suspect EVD.
- Avoid contact with bats, forest antelopes, and nonhuman primates (such as monkeys and chimpanzees) blood, fluids, or raw meat prepared from these or unknown animals (bushmeat).