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The European Medical Corps comprising two European experts and a mobile laboratory provided by the German Federal Foreign Office are being deployed to Kapchorwa district, the epicentre of Uganda’s latest outbreak of Marburg virus disease. The intervention will bolster efforts by Uganda’s health ministry and the World Health Organisation (WHO) to manage the disease and advance virus-related readiness in the region by building capacities across laboratory staff and clinicians in Uganda and Kenya. It will offer on-the-spot diagnostic capacity and improve preparedness for future outbreaks of Marburg and other hemorrhagic fevers such as Ebola.
"The EU Medical Corps allows us to respond faster to disease outbreaks. This deployment to Uganda shows the added value of a European medical corps with pooled resources. In collaborating with national health authorities and other expert networks we can help countries confronted with viral diseases such as Marburg improve their expertise, and develop protocols for future outbreaks. We will do all we can to support those in need in Uganda," said EU Commissioner for Humanitarian Aid and Crisis Management Christos Stylianides.
The unprecedented collaboration between the EU experts and counterparts from the Ugandan health ministry, WHO, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) will see the capacity of laboratory staff and clinicians strengthened. The mobile lab will provide diagnostic support to the high containment treatment unit set up by MSF. Cutting-edge research will be carried out in view of making innovative treatments available to patients and prophylaxis to frontline workers during future outbreaks.
In addition to this deployment, the EU has released EUR 98 000 in support of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) for preparedness efforts in Uganda and Kenya. Cross-border contact tracing is essential due to the porous borders and intense cross-border activity between both countries.
Since the outbreak of Marburg was declared on Oct. 19, the highly infectious disease has claimed three lives. If no new cases emerge, the epidemic could be declared over on Dec. 6
Between Oct. 17 and Nov. 13, two confirmed and one probable case of Marburg virus disease were reported. All three fatal cases were from Kween district, on the border with Kenya. Uganda was quick to activate its response plan with help from WHO, UNICEF and NGOs. Uganda is recurrently affected by episodes of Marburg virus disease (2007, 2008, 2012 and 2014). Initially transmitted to people from fruit bats, it is further propagated through human-to-human contact.
The European Medical Corps consists of EU Member States’ voluntary contributions. Medical teams and equipment are rapidly deployed to provide medical assistance and expertise in emergencies worldwide. The European Medical Corps has twice before been deployed during yellow fever outbreaks in the Democratic Republic of Congo and Angola in 2016.
EU research budget has gone to the development of Ebola and Marburg research treatment protocols.
Emmanuel Gyezaho, EU Delegation to Uganda: +256 312-701035, +256 756-719882
Anouk Delafortrie, EU Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid, Nairobi: + 254 722 791 604