Health: Sudan virus hits Uganda, Nigerian ports on alert

The Federal Government has placed the port health services across all borders in the country on high alert following the outbreak of the deadly Sudan Virus, a variant of the Ebola virus disease in Uganda.

The government also said details of inbound passengers from Uganda are being collected and sent to the National Public Health Institute, the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control.

Uganda health authorities on September 20, 2022, declared an outbreak of Ebola disease, caused by the Sudan virus, following laboratory confirmation of a patient from a village in Madudu sub-county, Mubende district, central Uganda.

The case was a 24-year-old male who developed a wide range of symptoms on September 11. He was then referred to the Regional Referral Hospital on September 15, where he was isolated as a suspected case of viral haemorrhagic fever. A blood sample was collected on September 17 and sent to the Uganda Virus Research Institute in Kampala, where RT-PCR tests were conducted and were positive for SUDV on September 19. On the same day, the patient died.

According to the World Health Organisation, the Sudan virus disease is a severe, often fatal illness affecting humans. Sudan virus was first identified in Southern Sudan in June 1976; since then, the virus has resurfaced regularly, with seven outbreaks caused by SUDV reported to date, four in Uganda and three in Sudan. The estimated case fatality ratios of SVD have varied from 41 per cent to 100 per cent in past outbreaks.

While speaking in an exclusive interview with our correspondent on Tuesday, the Director/Senior Technical Assistant to the Minister of Health, Dr Chris Isokpunwu, said, “The port health services are at high alert at our land borders and airports, and vigilance has been increased. Details of passengers coming in from Uganda are being collected and sent to the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control in case there is a need for contact tracing.”

Dr Isokpunwu, however, noted that there is no suspected case of the disease in the country.

As of October 2, Uganda has recorded 43 cases of Ebola.

The case fatality count has also risen to nine, according to the Ministry of Health in Uganda.

The Ebola outbreak updates posted on the Ministry of Health Twitter page, @MinofHealthUG, showed 882 contacts listed for follow-up, and there are 24 active cases on admission.

In a separate interview with our correspondent, a medical laboratory scientist at the Department of Microbiology, Nnamdi Azikiwe University Teaching Hospital, Nnewi, Anambra State, Obinna Chukwudi, said the current rise in the toll of the Ebola virus in Uganda is a call for concern because of the peculiar nature of the strain.

Chukwudi tasked the government to “set up a strong surveillance system across the borders and other entry ports to ensure that travellers into the country are properly tested to avoid community spread.”

“Increase our awareness campaign by educating Nigerians on the outbreak. Also, stressing the need for all Nigerians to continue with their protective equipment and shun activities that will expose them to the virus.”

According to the WHO, the Ebola Virus is introduced into the human population through close contact with the blood, secretions, organs, or other bodily fluids of infected animals such as fruit bats, chimpanzees, gorillas, monkeys, forest antelope, or porcupines found ill, dead, or in the rainforest.

“The virus then spreads through human-to-human transmission via direct contact (through broken skin or mucous membranes) with either the blood or body fluids of a person who is sick with or has died from SVD or objects that have been contaminated with body fluids (like blood, faeces, vomit) from a person sick with SVD or the body of a person who died from SVD.

“The incubation period ranges from 2 to 21 days. People infected with the Sudan virus cannot spread the disease until they develop symptoms, and they remain infectious as long as their blood contains the virus. Symptoms of SVD can be sudden and include fever, fatigue, muscle pain, headache, and sore throat, later followed by vomiting, diarrhoea, rash, and symptoms of impaired kidney and liver function.

“The diagnosis of SVD can be difficult, as early nonspecific manifestations of the disease may mimic other infectious diseases such as malaria, typhoid fever, and meningitis. Confirmation is made using numerous diagnostic methods, including RT-PCR. Supportive care—rehydration with oral or intravenous fluids—and treatment of specific symptoms improve survival.

“There are no licensed vaccines or therapeutics for the prevention and treatment of Sudan virus disease,” it said.

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