Date: Mon, 5 Aug 2019 18:34:26 +0200 (METDST)

Kampala, Aug 5, 2019 (AFP) - Uganda said Monday it had started a trial of an experimental Ebola vaccine that may be used in neighbouring Democratic Republic of Congo, where an outbreak has killed more than 1,800 people.   The trial of the MVA-BN vaccine developed by Johnson&Johnson is expected to last two years, Uganda's Medical Research Council (MRC) said.

The vaccine will be administered to up to 800 health professionals and frontline workers such as cleaners, ambulance personnel and mortuary and burial teams, in the western district of Mbarara, the MRC said in a statement.   MRC spokeswoman Pamela Nabukenya Wairagala said vaccinations had already begun.   The MRC said the trial would be led by Ugandan researchers and supported by the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine.   At present there is no licenced drug to prevent or treat Ebola although a range of experimental drugs are in development.

The Congo outbreak is the first time that a vaccine has been used as a full-scale weapon against the virus.   Health authorities have been issuing the rVSV-ZEBOV vaccine, developed by US pharma group Merck -- a product that has yet to be licenced but has been shown to be safe and effective.   The World Health Organization (WHO) has called for its deployment to be expanded and has recommended the Johnson&Johnson vaccine also be rolled out in order to meet needs.   However, the latter move has been resisted.

Critics have cautioned against introducing a new product in communities where mistrust of Ebola responders is already high.    Congo's former health minister, Oly Ilunga, who stepped down in July, was among the detractors.   The MRC said the Johnson&Johnson vaccine "is safe" and had been tested on more than 6,000 people in Europe, the US and African nations including Uganda.   However, its efficacy is unclear because it has never been assessed in an outbreak scenario.    By comparison, rVSV-ZEBOV was introduced in Guinea towards the end of a 2013-16 epidemic in West Africa, enabling scientists to conclude it was effective.

The trial taking place in Uganda, where there is no Ebola, will look at the response of the immune system to the vaccine -- a key pointer of effectiveness.   It will also look at safety and the attitudes of participants towards the vaccine, the MRC said.   Professor Pontiano Kaleebu, the lead Ugandan researcher in the trial, said developing a reliable vaccine was a key component to controlling Ebola epidemics.   "In this trial we hope to avail more information that will help us work towards having a licenced Ebola vaccine," Kaleebu said in a statement.

Uganda has suffered Ebola outbreaks in the past but nothing on the scale of the Congo epidemic, which began in August 2018.    It is the second-worst outbreak on record, eclipsed only by 2013-2016 epidemic in West Africa, which killed more than 11,300 out of 29,000 documented cases.   Uganda has been declared Ebola-free though in June three people from one family died there from the haemorrhagic fever after crossing back from Congo.
Date: Sat 3 Aug 2019
Source: Daily Monitor [edited]
<https://www.monitor.co.ug/News/National/49-people-isolated-Crimean-Congo-Fever-hits-Lyantonde-/688334-5221502-o5k1cgz/index.html>

One person has been confirmed dead and 49 others currently are isolated following an outbreak of Crimean-Congo haemorrhagic fever (CCHF) in Lyantonde District.

According to the Lyantonde District Health Officer, Dr Moses Nkanika, [VB], 42, who was a businessman dealing in cattle, succumbed to the deadly disease on [Wed 31 Jul 2019].

"The blood samples we got from the deceased in Kasagama Sub County have tested positive for CCHF, not Ebola as earlier suspected," Dr Nkanika told Daily Monitor in an interview on Saturday morning [3 Aug 2019].

He said 49 residents who got in close contact with the deceased are currently isolated to avoid contacts with other people as health workers continue to monitor their health conditions.

"These people are expected to remain in isolation for 40 days until they are cleared by ministry of health," he said. He advised residents to be on alert and report any emergencies to the nearby health centres.

Mr Emmanuel Ainebyoona, the Ministry of Health spokesperson said he was not aware of the outbreak, but promised to crosscheck with other responsible authorities to confirm.  [Byline: Paul Ssekandi]
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[CCHF has occurred sporadically in Uganda over recent years and is endemic there. It causes a viral hemorrhagic fever and the virus is transmitted by ticks. ProMED Mod.UBA has indicated that, "Uganda lies between countries that have frequent outbreaks of RVF [Rift Valley fever] and in which CCHF is endemic: Kenya, Somalia, Tanzania, and Sudan. A recent Food and Agriculture Organization risk analysis identified Uganda as at very high risk of amplification in some districts of the cattle corridor, which covers 52 districts cutting across the central part of the country from the southwest in Ankole-Kigezi to the northeastern region in Karamoja.

The RVF virus has been isolated frequently in domestic animals in all affected areas. In addition, the practice of eating "sanga meat" (meat harvested from sick animals) in some districts heightens the risk of zoonotic transmission of both VHFs [viral haemorrhagic fevers, CCHF and Rift Valley fever]. At present, there is inadequate community engagement and social mobilization around the risks posed by these practices. Most of the 52 districts in the cattle corridor lack such engagement  (<http://apps.who.int/iris/bitstream/handle/10665/273497/OEW30-2127072018.pdf>)."

CCHF can cause serious disease in humans, with a case fatality rate of 10-40%. It can be responsible for severe outbreaks in humans, but it is not pathogenic for ruminants, their amplifying hosts. WHO states that the onset of symptoms in humans is sudden, with fever, myalgia, (muscle ache), dizziness, neck pain and stiffness, backache, headache, sore eyes and photophobia (sensitivity to light). There may be nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea, abdominal pain, and sore throat early on, followed by sharp mood swings and confusion.

After 2-4 days, the agitation may be replaced by sleepiness, depression, and lassitude, and the abdominal pain may localize to the upper right quadrant, with detectable hepatomegaly (liver enlargement). Other clinical signs include tachycardia (fast heart rate), lymphadenopathy (enlarged lymph nodes), and a petechial rash (a rash caused by bleeding into the skin) on internal mucosal surfaces, such as in the mouth and throat, and on the skin.

Public education, especially among individuals in contact with livestock or their products, is needed to prevent cases of CCHF infection. A One Health approach is needed for effective surveillance, with effective communication between animal health and human health professionals. - ProMED Mod.TY]

[HealthMap/ProMED-mail map of Uganda:
<http://healthmap.org/promed/p/24897>]
Date: Thu 25 Jul 2019
Source: Kampala Dispatch [edited]
<http://dispatch.ug/2019/07/25/kadaga-directs-health-ministry-respond-increased-cases-elephantiasis/>

The Speaker of Parliament Rebecca Kadaga has directed the Health Minister Jane Aceng to dispatch a team to Kamwenge and Kitagwenda districts to respond to increasing cases of elephantiasis in the area.

Elephantiasis, also known as lymphatic filariasis, is one of the neglected tropical diseases caused by parasitic worms such as _Wuchereria bancrofti_, _Brugia malayi_, and _Brugia timori_, all of which are transmitted by mosquitoes. It causes the affected area, mostly the limbs or parts of the head, to swell abnormally.

During the plenary session on Wednesday [24 Jul 2019], Kamwenge Woman MP Dorothy Azairwe Nshaija raised a matter of National Importance. She told Parliament that elephantiasis has affected the area since 2007.

She said that despite the matter being brought to the attention of the Ministry of Health, nothing has been done. Nshaija says that 12 people are reported to have died in the past few weeks.

Nshaija appealed for government's intervention in the affected areas of Busiriba Sub-County in Kamwenge District and Sub-Counties of Ntara and Buhanda in the new district of Kitagwenda. Kadaga directed Aceng to travel to Kamwenge and Kitagwenda districts to establish the causes of the disease and report back to Parliament on Wednesday [31 Jul 2019].

Reports indicate that several farmers in the affected areas have abandoned their gardens due to the disease. Contrary to reports that elephantiasis was being caused by mosquitoes and worms, a 2015 study by the Ministry of Health indicated that volcanic minerals in soils were causing elephantiasis in Kamwenge. The study described the disease as a result of chronic exposure of skin to irritant minerals in volcanic soils causing itching and pain.

The Health Ministry then reported that 52 cases of people with elephantiasis had been identified and that these had the disease since 1980 since it takes longer for someone to realize it due to lack of awareness and its risk increases with older age. The report said that women were 5 times more affected than men since they move barefooted and spend more time in the farms touching the volcanic soils with minerals that cause this disease.

Also noted was that a big number of farmers affected by elephantiasis were not wearing gumboots when tilling their land, yet the disease is associated with direct contact with the soils.
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[The news report suggests that the condition is filariasis caused by mosquito-borne nematodes _Wuchereria bancrofti_ and _Brugia malayi_. The discussion of the association with exposure to volcanic soil, however, makes it more probable that the condition is so-called "podoconiosis."

Podoconiosis is known as "mossy-foot" because the papillomata have a moss-like appearance. It is caused by long-term barefoot exposure to volcanic soils high in silica. These soils are found in the highlands of tropical Africa, Central America, and northwest India (1). Seasonally heavy rains in these regions lead to soil erosion. Chronic, recurrent barefoot exposure to exposed silica leads to lymphatic obstruction resulting in ascending lymphedema. - ProMED Mod.EP]

[Reference
1. Eid R, Sharma D, Smock W. Podoconiosis in rural Tanzania. Am J Trop
Med Hyg 2016;95(1):1. <https://doi.org/10.4269/ajtmh.16-0028>

HealthMap/ProMED-mail map:
Uganda: <http://healthmap.org/promed/p/97>]
Date: Thu 11 Jul 2019
Source: Daily Monitor [edited]
<https://www.monitor.co.ug/SpecialReports/Bilharzia-infections-hit-12m-Ugandans-report/688342-5190618-x7tnh4/index.html>

Bilharzia infections in Uganda have hit 12 million cases and the threat continues, 14 years after the Health ministry launched a programme to wipe out the disease. The ministry launched the Bilharzia Control Programme in 2003, with mass treatment of affected communities once every year with a drug called Praziquantel. The drug was used in areas with bilharzia infection of 20% and above.

The government also launched mass treatment of school-age children once every 2 years in areas where the infection ranges were from 1% to 20%. However, despite its high prevalence, bilharzia is clustered among the tropical neglected diseases, with little funding allocated to combat it. This has made its control and elimination a difficult task for health experts. A 2018 research report released by Makerere University School of Public Health indicates that 29% of 40 million Ugandans are infected by bilharzia, which translates into about 12 million people suffering from the disease. The research findings say the burden is up to 42% among children aged between 2 and 4, posing a huge risk to their health.

Currently, there is no bilharzia treatment for children below 5 years. This means they are at more risk than those above 5 years and adults, yet they have a lot of contact with contaminated water. In an earlier interview with Daily Monitor, Mr. Moses Adriko, the programme officer for vector control at the Vector Control Division of Ministry of Health, said the bilharzia problem is huge yet the disease falls under the neglected tropical disease category. [Byline: Franklin Draku]
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[ProMED does not agree that children under 5 years of age with schistosomiasis cannot be treated. Please refer to a recent review (Osakunor, DNM, Woolhouse MEJ, Mutapi F et al. Paediatric schistosomiasis: What we know and what we need to know. PLoS Negl Trop Dis. 2018 Feb; 12(2): e0006144. <https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5805162/>)

Followed by an endorsement from the WHO (Montresor A, Garba A. Treatment of preschool children for schistosomiasis.
Lancet Glob Health. 2017;5(7):e640-e1. doi: 10.1016/S2214-109X(17)30202-4; available at: <https://www.thelancet.com/journals/langlo/article/PIIS2214-109X(17)30202-4/fulltext>), a recent randomised dose-ranging trial reports that a single 40 mg/kg dose of PZQ can be used for treatment in preschool-aged children (PSAC) (Coulibaly JT, Panic G, Silué KD, Kovac J, Hattendorf J,
and Keiser J. Efficacy and safety of praziquantel in preschool-aged and school-aged children infected with Schistosoma mansoni: a randomised controlled, parallel-group, dose-ranging, phase 2 trial. Lancet Glob Health. 2017;5(7):e688-e98; available at: <https://www.thelancet.com/journals/langlo/article/PIIS2214-109X(17)30187-0/fulltext>).

PZQ is currently administered to PSAC as crushed tablets with juice or bread. In conclusion, paediatric schistosomiasis can and should be treated. - ProMED Mod. EP]

[HealthMap/ProMED map available at: Uganda:
<http://healthmap.org/promed/p/97>]
Date: Wed, 10 Jul 2019 14:55:44 +0200

Kinshasa, July 10, 2019 (AFP) - Uganda says there have been no further cases of Ebola on its territory resulting from the deaths of two Ugandans who had travelled to DR Congo, the Congolese authorities said Wednesday.   In an update on the epidemic in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, the health ministry said its Ugandan counterparts had confirmed there had been no further infections.   "The health ministry of the Republic of Uganda has announced that all contacts with the index case completed their obligatory 21-day monitoring period without developing signs of the disease," it said.   The "index case" was a five-year-old Ugandan boy who was the first of the two to die, followed by his grandmother.

His family had travelled to DRC where they had buried an Ebola-stricken relative.   They were then placed in an isolation ward in the DRC but fled and returned to Uganda across the porous border, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).   A total of 1,641 deaths have been recorded in DRC's North Kivu and neighbouring Ituri provinces since August 1, according to the latest toll.   The epidemic is the worst outbreak of Ebola on record after more than 11,300 were killed Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone between 2014-2016.
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