Congo starts giving Ebola vaccine to some babies

Ebola in Uganda

Ugandans concerned at reports of Ebola cases in the country.

The World Health Organisation emergency committee will decide Friday whether to declare a raging Ebola epidemic an worldwide threat, after an outbreak that began in Democratic Republic of Congo crossed into Uganda. The boy's three-year-old brother also is infected. His 50-year-old grandmother, who was accompanying them, died of the disease on Wednesday, the ministry said.

At the peak of the Ebola crisis in DR Congo a year ago, the Health ministry said they needed Shs3.4 billion for response and surveillance in the country.

The infections marked the first confirmed cross-border cases of the virus in the current epidemic, which was previously confined to the eastern DRC's North Kivu and Ituri provinces after emerging ten months ago. Two family members have died and the rest have been transferred to Congo for monitoring and treatment.

That changed this week with confirmation that Ebola had reached western Uganda, where it has claimed two lives so far.

Uganda's health ministry said three people who are suspected to have Ebola and are not related to the family remain in isolation, with tests pending.

All three were from a single family that travelled to DRC to care for a relative, who also died of Ebola.

"The US government has invested heavily in Uganda's preparations to manage Ebola through both technical and financial assistance, and we will continue to provide assistance to prevent the spread of the disease", reads the statement posted on the website of the US Embassy in Uganda. The illness causes internal bleeding and is easily transmitted through contact with small amounts of bodily fluid.

On Thursday, Uganda banned public gatherings in the Kasese district where the family crossed the border.

"They are a little alarmed now and they realize that the risk of catching Ebola is now real", he said.

Congolese refugees wash their hands before being screened for Ebola symptoms at the IRC triage facility at the Kyaka II refugee settlement.

According to the WHO, Uganda has vaccinated almost 4,700 health workers in 165 facilities with an experimental drug created to protect them against the virus.

Dr. Mike Ryan, head of WHO's emergencies program, said that he expected Uganda to approve the use of experimental therapeutic drug treatments, to be shipped "in coming days".

The World Health Organization will hold an emergency meeting Friday to determine whether to declare the outbreak "a public health emergency of global concern", a major shift in the mobilisation against the disease.

Authorities have struggled to contain the disease partly because health workers have been attacked almost 200 times this year in conflict-hit eastern Congo, the epicenter of the outbreak.

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