Update on Ebola haemorrhagic fever outbreaks: Uganda and DR Congo


An outbreak of Ebola haemorrhagic fever has been reported in Province Orientale in Eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). As of 20th August, there have been a total of 15 (13 probable and 2 confirmed) cases with 10 deaths. Laboratory investigations have confirmed the causative agent as Ebola virus Bundibugyo. The outbreak of Ebola haemorrhagic fever which began in Uganda in July was caused by the Ebola species Sudan, indicating that the two outbreaks are not related.

The most recent figures from the Ministry of Health in Uganda show that a total of 23 probable and confirmed cases, including 16 deaths, have been recorded as of 10th August. Of these, 10 cases have been laboratory confirmed by the Uganda Virus Research Institute (UVRI) in Entebbe.

Since 1976 DRC has experienced several outbreaks of Ebola virus while there have been two outbreaks of Ebola virus in the past in Uganda. Through these, DRC and Uganda have developed experience in dealing with such outbreaks, with the support of the World Health Organization, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and specialised non-governmental organisations.

The European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) has published rapid risk assessments of the current situation in both Uganda and DRC. The reports warn that as the incubation period can be up to three weeks, it is likely that additional cases will be identified locally in the coming weeks. However, control measures currently implemented in DRC and Uganda such as isolation of cases and active monitoring of contacts, should prevent further spread of the disease.

It is unlikely, but not impossible, that travellers infected in either DRC or Uganda could arrive in the EU while incubating the disease and develop symptoms while in the EU. However, such cases should seek medical attention and be isolated, therefore preventing further transmission. EU citizens in DRC and Uganda are not at risk of becoming infected unless they are in direct contact with bodily fluids of dead or living infected persons or animals. Avoiding such contact would effectively mitigate this risk.

The ECDC Rapid risk assessment on the outbreak of Ebola haemorrhagic fever in Uganda is available to read here.

The ECDC Rapid risk assessment on the outbreak of Ebola haemorrhagic fever in DRC is available to read here.