In an accelerated effort to scale up the response to the Ebola outbreak in Uganda, the World Health Organization (WHO) is delivering medical supplies, providing logistics and deploying personnel to help national authorities stop the spread of the virus.
So far, seven cases, including one death, have been confirmed to have contracted Sudan Ebolavirus, one of six species of the Ebolavirus genus.
43 contacts have been identified and 10 people suspected of having contracted the virus are receiving treatment at the regional referral hospital in Mubende, the district where the disease was confirmed this week, making it the first time that Uganda has detected Ebola from Sudan.
Mubende is located in the central region of Uganda and is about a two-hour drive from the capital, Kampala, and is along a busy highway that leads to the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
There are gold mines in the area, which attract people from different parts of Uganda, as well as other countries.
The mobile nature of the Mubende population increases the risk of possible spread of the virus.
WHO has deployed a technical team to Mubende district to support surveillance, infection prevention and control, and case management.
The Organization is also assisting in the activation of monitoring structures in neighboring districts and is redeploying its staff in the country to reinforce the response.
In addition, five international experts will be deployed, with the number increasing if necessary.
“We are acting quickly and decisively to take control of this outbreak.
Our experts are already working on the ground with Uganda's experienced Ebola control teams to strengthen surveillance, diagnosis, treatment and preventive measures," said Dr. Abdou Salam Gueye, Regional Director of Emergencies at the Regional Office.
of the WHO for Africa.
"Africa's increased local emergency preparedness is proving increasingly crucial to tackling outbreaks like Ebola."
Due to previous outbreaks from Uganda and the threat of importation of cases from the neighboring Democratic Republic of the Congo which has battled several outbreaks, WHO and the Ministry of Health have collaborated on many preparedness activities, the latest such exercise was in August 2022, where nine Ugandan doctors received training on how to manage viral haemorrhagic fevers and are now working on the response.
The WHO already has six viral haemorrhagic fever kits in Uganda, and one has been delivered to Mubende.
Although there are no therapies that specifically treat the Sudan ebolavirus species, early identification of cases and treatment of symptoms greatly increases the chances of survival.
Current evidence shows that the ERVEBO vaccine, which is highly effective against Zaire ebolavirus, does not provide cross-protection against Sudan ebolavirus.
There are at least six Sudanese ebolavirus vaccine candidates that are in different stages of development.
Three of them have Phase 1 data (safety and immunogenicity data in humans) and the rest are in the preclinical evaluation phase.
The WHO Research and Development Plan team is in contact with all developers and is leading a collaborative effort involving international experts to determine which vaccines may be suitable for further evaluation during this outbreak (and whether doses with required standards are available) in case more cases are confirmed.
There is a BASIC protocol for its evaluation and WHO will discuss the proposed next steps with the Ugandan authorities to seek their approval.
WHO today held a press conference led by Dr. Patrick Otim, Health Emergencies Officer, Acute Event Management Unit, WHO Regional Office for Africa.
He was joined by Dr. Kyobe Henry Bbosa, Ebola Incident Commander, Uganda Ministry of Health; Dr. Ana Maria Henao-Restrepo, co-director of the research and development plan for epidemics, WHO Health Emergencies Program; and William A.
Fischer II, MD, Director of Emerging Pathogens at the Institute for Global Health and Infectious Diseases and Assistant Professor of Medicine in the Division of Pulmonary and Critical Care Medicine at the University of North Carolina.
Africa is ramping up COVID-19 vaccination of high-risk population groups with some promising signs. Nearly 50% of health workers and people over the age of 60 are fully vaccinated against the virus in countries that report data to the World Health Organization (WHO).
June 2022 data from 31 countries that reported COVID-19 vaccination of high-risk groups shows a significant increase compared to the end of December 2021, when only 33% of health workers and 10% of older people were fully vaccinated. The WHO recommends 90% vaccination coverage for health workers and 80% coverage for people over 60 years of age.
Only two African countries (Mauritius and Seychelles) have fully vaccinated 70% of their total population. Rwanda is expected to achieve this goal by the end of the month based on the pace of its current adoption, bringing to three the number of countries in Africa that reach the global goal of 70% by the end of June.
However, Africa has a predominantly young demographic, with 45% of the continent's population under the age of 18. In an attempt to use vaccines strategically, most countries are targeting their adult population. WHO recommends countries with low vaccination coverage to focus on high-priority groups: health workers, older adults, and people with comorbidities. The continent's coverage of people over 18 years of age is estimated at 34%, significantly higher than the 18% total coverage in the general population. Nine countries have fully vaccinated more than 70% of their adult population, while 21 have reached more than 40% of adults.
“Having been beset by poor access to doses, costly delays and gaps, the progress of COVID-19 vaccination in Africa so far is no mean feat,” said Dr. Matshidiso Moeti, Regional Director of the WHO for Africa. “Africa's young population has helped the continent weather the COVID-19 pandemic. While protecting young people at high risk for COVID-19 is paramount, focusing efforts on vaccinating older people, healthcare workers and other vulnerable populations will ensure we stay one step ahead of the virus."
WHO recommends that countries continue to focus on high-priority populations, such as health workers, people with comorbidities, and older people, and diversify vaccination delivery strategies, combining vaccination at fixed health facility sites with efforts to bring vaccination to communities through mass vaccination campaigns. and intensification of routine immunization activities.
To date, at least 31 countries have planned massive vaccination campaigns until the end of the year. During mass vaccination campaigns, WHO recommends that countries establish tailored mobile teams for targeted vaccination of high-priority groups. Learning from the experience of HIV testing and treatment, provider-initiated COVID-19 vaccination should be offered in primary health care and in special units that offer care to people with co-morbidities such as HIV, diabetes, cardiovascular diseases and cancer.
WHO and its partners are focusing support on countries that are at risk of being left behind. Fourteen African countries with less than 10% vaccination coverage will receive support from multiple partner countries, and WHO will intensify efforts to strengthen COVID-19 vaccination data management in its assistance to these countries, many of which they are also dealing with humanitarian crises. and/or disease outbreaks.
Over the past week, the number of new COVID-19 cases in Africa has risen marginally after a sustained three-week decline. This slight uptick was due to the recent increase in reported cases in East and North Africa. As of June 13, 2022, there were 11.9 million cases of COVID-19 in Africa, including 254,442 deaths.
Dr. Moeti was speaking today during a virtual press conference facilitated by APO Group. She was joined by Dr Daniel Kyabayinze, Director, Public Health, Ministry of Health, Uganda; Professor Emmanuel Nakoune, Acting Director of the Institut Pasteur in Bangui, Central African Republic; and Dr. Peter Fonjungo, Director of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
Also present from the WHO Regional Office for Africa to answer questions were Dr. Abdou Salam Gueye, Director of Emergency Preparedness and Response; Dr. Thierno Balde, Regional Incident Manager for COVID-19; Dr. Fiona Braka, Team Leader, Emergency Operations; and Dr. Phionah Atuhebwe Vaccine Introduction Medical Officer.
Southern Africa is facing a surge in COVID-19 cases for the third consecutive week as the region's winter season approaches. The rebound has broken a two-month decline in overall infections recorded across the continent.
The subregion recorded 46,271 cases in the week ending May 8, 2022, which represents an increase of 32% from the previous week. The increase is largely due to a spike in South Africa, where weekly recorded cases have quadrupled in the past three weeks. However, deaths have not risen as fast. South Africa recorded 376 deaths in the last three weeks, double compared to the previous three weeks.
Although cases have increased, hospitalization in South Africa remains low, with the number of currently admitted patients who have tested positive for COVID-19 around 20% of the peak in late December 2021. In Gauteng and KwaZulu provinces -Natal, where the last wave was detected for the first time, both hospitalizations and in-hospital deaths increased between 90% and 100% in the last two weeks compared to the previous fortnight.
The current surge is being driven by the Omicron variant amid relaxed public health and social measures. Since the beginning of April, South Africa alone has recorded 1,369 cases of Omicron's subvariant BA.2, 703 cases of subvariant BA.4, and 222 cases of subvariant BA.5. However, BA.4 and BA.5 remain the most concerning because the two subvariants contain the largest number of mutations and it is not yet clear how they affect immunity.
In addition to South Africa, Eswatini and Namibia also saw an increase in cases, with both reporting 50% more new cases in the last two weeks compared to the previous two weeks.
Africa's last four pandemic waves occurred in the middle and end of the year and were mostly driven by new variants of COVID-19, winter seasons, and high population movement during these holiday periods. In 2021, the Delta-driven mid-year surge began around May and late November with the appearance of Omicron.
“This increase in cases is an early warning sign that we are closely monitoring. Now is the time for countries to step up preparedness and ensure that they can mount an effective response in the event of a new pandemic wave,” said Dr. Abdou Salam Gueye, Director of Emergency Preparedness and Response at the Regional Office of the World Health Organization (WHO). for Africa
In the past two years, African countries have greatly improved their response to COVID-19, with key aspects such as surveillance, testing and treatment being strengthened. It is vital that these measures are maintained and rapidly expanded should COVID-19 cases rise further and in many countries.
The continent has also stepped up genomic sequencing. Between January and April 2021, African laboratories reported over 9,000 sequences. This has increased more than fourfold to almost 40,000 during the same period this year.
However, with cases declining earlier this year, countries have rolled back public health measures, including surveillance. Testing has also decreased. Between March and May 2022, only 30% of countries reporting testing data met the WHO benchmark of 10 tests per 10,000 people per week. This is down from 40% in the months between the Delta and Omicron-driven waves in 2021.
"With the experience gained in the past two years, we must do everything possible to curb the adverse impacts of a new pandemic wave by intensifying vaccination and measures to detect and prevent the spread of the virus, as well as treat patients." Dr. Gueye said. “To defeat this pandemic, we must remain vigilant. The harsh reality is that complacency comes at a high price.”
So far, Africa has reported 11.7 million cases and around 253,000 deaths. The mainland recorded 52,878 cases in the week ending May 8, a 38% increase from the previous week.
WHO today held a virtual press conference led by Dr. Gueye and facilitated by APO Group. He was joined by Professor Placide Mbala, Head of the Department of Epidemiology and Head of the Laboratory of Genomic Pathogens, National Institute for Biomedical Research, Democratic Republic of the Congo, and Dr Kerrigan McCarthy, Specialist Pathologist, National Institute of Communicable Diseases, South Africa .
Also present from the WHO Regional Office for Africa to answer questions were Dr. Thierno Balde, Regional Incident Manager for COVID-19, Dr. Nicksy Gumede-Moeletsi, Regional Virologist, Dr. Mory Keita, Manager Director for the Ebola outbreak response in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and Zora Machekanyanga, Communications Officer, Vaccine-Preventable Diseases, WHO Intercountry Support Team for Eastern and Southern Africa.
The World Health Organization (WHO) has released US$8.3 million from its Contingency Fund for Emergencies to help the 10.6 million people in need of emergency health services in the Sahel region.
Humanitarian agencies and governments estimate that 33.2 million people are dealing with the devastating effects of armed conflict, insecurity, food insecurity and displacement in the Sahel.
The funds will help provide crucial health services to populations living in camps and displacement sites, as well as to people affected by disease outbreaks in six countries in the region. In Burkina Faso, around 500,000 people have been displaced by armed violence in 2021. In Mali, a quarter of health services remain interrupted due to the impact of COVID-19. Cameroon is dealing with a cholera outbreak, while Chad is facing a yellow fever outbreak.
WHO will work to improve treatment of malnutrition in Burkina Faso; strengthen cholera diagnoses in Cameroon; provide essential services to 100,000 people in Chad; deploy psychologists in the 10 regions of Mali; equip and train four outbreak response teams in Niger; and restoring services to two hospitals in northeastern Nigeria, serving some 300,000 people.
“Armed conflicts and the worsening impacts of climate change are placing untold hardships on millions of children, women, families and even entire communities across the Sahel. We are committed to providing crucial health assistance to affected populations and helping to alleviate the profound deprivation they face,” said Dr. Abdou Salam Gueye, Director of Emergency Preparedness and Response at the WHO Regional Office for Africa.
Health indicators in the Sahel are among the worst in the world. The region has some of the highest maternal mortality rates in the world at 856 deaths per 100,000 live births due to poor access to maternal and reproductive health care, as well as a high prevalence of early marriage.
Armed attacks on civilians and public infrastructure, including health facilities and schools, droughts, land degradation and unpredictable weather are exacerbating the plight of millions of people in the Sahel.
Conflict and insecurity are a major obstacle to the provision of humanitarian assistance. These challenges prevent WHO teams and partners from delivering essential medicines, engaging communities in public health programs such as water and sanitation services, mosquito net distribution and basic childhood immunizations.
Despite the dire needs and urgency of providing assistance to millions of people in need in Burkina Faso, northern Cameroon, Chad, northeastern Nigeria, Mali and Niger, only half of the US$3.7 billion needed to provide vital assistance in the region was received in 2021.
Early indications suggest that Africa's fourth wave has been abrupt and brief, but no less destabilizingBRAZZAVILLE, Congo (Republic of), January 13, 2022 / APO Group / -
After a six-week surge, Africa's fourth pandemic wave driven primarily by the Omicron variant is flattening out, marking the shortest increase to date on the continent, where cumulative cases now exceed 10 million.
As of January 11, there have been 10.2 million cases of COVID-19 in Africa. Weekly cases were stagnant in the seven days to Jan.9 from the previous week. Southern Africa, which saw a large increase in infections during the pandemic wave, saw a 14% decline in infections over the past week. South Africa, where Omicron was first reported, saw a 9% drop in weekly infections. The East and Central African regions also experienced a decline. However, North and West Africa are seeing an increase in cases, with North Africa reporting a 121% increase last week compared to the previous week.
However, across the continent, deaths were up 64% in the seven days ending January 9 compared to the previous week, mostly due to infections among high-risk people. However, deaths in the fourth wave are lower than in previous waves. Hospitalizations have remained low. In South Africa, for example, around 9% of its more than 5,600 intensive care unit beds are currently occupied by COVID-19 patients.
In countries experiencing an increase in cases, the fast-spreading Omicron variant has become the dominant type. While it took around four weeks for the Delta variant to outperform the previously dominant Beta, Omicron outperformed Delta in two weeks in the worst affected African countries.
“Early indications suggest that the fourth wave out of Africa has been steep and brief, but no less destabilizing. The crucial pandemic countermeasure that is badly needed in Africa remains, and that is to rapidly and significantly scale up COVID-19 vaccines. The next wave might not be so forgiving, ”said Dr Matshidiso Moeti, World Health Organization (WHO) Regional Director for Africa.
Crucial for COVID-19 detection and surveillance, including genomics, tests increased modestly by 1.6% over the past week to more than 90 million, mostly polymerase chain reaction tests ( PCR), carried out throughout the continent. Twenty-three countries registered a high positivity rate of more than 10% during the past week.
Across Africa, WHO is supporting countries to strengthen genomic sequencing through trainings in key areas such as bioinformatics and sample handling. The Organization is also helping to acquire and deliver critical laboratory equipment and supplies to countries.
So far, 30 African countries, and at least 142 globally, have detected the Omicron variant. The Delta variant has been reported in 42 countries in Africa. In West Africa, where COVID-19 cases are on the rise, the number of Omicron sequences performed by countries such as Cape Verde, Ghana, Nigeria and Senegal is growing. In Cape Verde and Nigeria, Omicron is currently the dominant variant.
While the continent appears to be weathering the latest pandemic wave, vaccines remain low. Only about 10% of Africa's population has been fully vaccinated. The supply of vaccines to the continent has recently improved, and WHO is stepping up its support to countries to deliver doses effectively to the general population.
“This year should mark a turning point in the vaccination campaign against COVID-19 in Africa. With large sections of the population still unvaccinated, our chances of limiting the emergence and impact of fatal variants are terribly slim, ”said Dr. Moeti. "We have the knowledge and the tools, and with concerted momentum, we can certainly tip the balance against the pandemic."
WHO today held a virtual press conference led by Dr. Abdou Salam Gueye, Director of Emergency Preparedness and Response at the WHO Regional Office for Africa. He was joined by Dr. Anita Graham, an intensivist at the University of the Witwatersrand, South Africa.
Also available to answer questions were Dr. Nicksy Gumede-Moeletsi, Regional Virologist, WHO Regional Office for Africa, and Mr. Alain Poy, Regional Immunization Monitoring and Evaluation Officer, WHO Regional Office for Africa.