Kampala Residents Not Yet Vigilant over Ebola Outbreak

There is minimal vigilance in Kampala for people to guard against the spread of the Ebola virus as Kampala dwellers go on with their businesses.

Downtown Kampala, people are operating as usual running their errands with no bother of the virus which was confirmed in Mubende and has since spread with cases reported in Kyegegwa and Kassanda districts. 

The first case of Ebola was reported from Madudu Subcounty Mubende District where a deceased 24-year-old man was confirmed to have had the Sudan variant. The Health Ministry called on the public to be vigilant, report suspected cases, always wash hands or sanitize and avoid contact that puts one at risk of catching Ebola.

No case has been reported in Kampala despite being a business center with over 3 million people present daily in the capital city. 

Uganda Radio Network visited transport terminals, markets and other business centers to find out if there is any change in how people are conducting themselves. At the different taxi parks, Old taxi park and Kisenyi taxi parks, Kisenyi bus park there was no visible effort to safe guard the public from the virus. There were a few hand washing facilities but out of use. Passengers and motorists had free entry and exit. 

Muhamed Mulindwa, the Chairman of the Old taxi Park says they shall fill the tanks with water and their staff shall enforce hand washing and wearing of masks soon.

According to Kampala Capital City Authority-KCCA, over 200,000 people transit through the Old taxi park on a daily basis. Some come from town areas while others from long distance which could include Mubende, the current epicenter of the Ebola virus.

Mulindwa says they are counting mainly on the Redcross Society which has set up a tent near the Park to attend to any emergencies.

The situation is not different in the different city markets including the biggest market, St. Balikuddembe, commonly known as Owino. Buyers and sellers interact freely in a manner that exposes them to the virus. 

URN also visited the KCCA headquarters to observe what was happening there in regard to Ebola. At the entrance along Nile Avenue, one enters freely without being checked. Guards randomly pick on some people and ask them to wear masks. During the visit, there were three police officers from the Counter Terrorism Unit and two private security guards. In the building, at the small entrance, there is no screening and no handwashing. 

However, KCCA has displayed banners with messages about how Ebola spreads and how it can be controlled, at different spots where people pass. Outside the elevator, in corridors, at the court, and the City Hall clinic, there are banners with messages about Ebola that have been erected.

Ebola is transmitted through the exchange of bodily fluids like saliva, blood, sweat and others from an infected person to another person. Experts says the virus takes five days before its victim can display symptoms which include bleeding from any openings on the body, fever, headaches and fatigue. 

The only place downtown with visible efforts to prevent the spread of Ebola is the new taxi park. Management of the new taxi park has put in place hand washing facilities and their staff enforce hand washing by any person entering the park. At two entry points, one along Allen Road and at Mackay Road, men casually dressed spray handles of every taxi coming in. The sprayer is filled with water mixed with disinfectant. The park management has also a banner got from KCCA that they have displayed in their office.

The new taxi park has several long-distance taxis including those from Mubende, where the first case was confirmed. 

Abdallah Ali Halage, a public health specialist from Makerere University says that the public needs to avoid crowded places to minimise contact with people whose status of Ebola they don’t know. He adds that people should be attentive to their hygiene even more so as to prevent catching and or transmitting Ebola.

“I expect that there are handwashing facilities in different places or sanitizers for people to keep cleaning,” said Halage. “People should avoid crowded places, avoid unnecessary body contact, don’t touch suspected Ebola patients or bodies,  and avoid burials that involve suspected Ebola victims. Only protected people with knowledge should handle suspected Ebola patients or bodies.” 

The KCCA Spokesperson Simon Kasyate told URN in a recent interview that they are passing out messages to local leaders urging them to report any suspected cases of Ebola virus. He said there are three isolation centers, one at Mulago hospital, another at China Friendship Hospital and Entebbe Hospital which were used during the peak of COVID-19. He says in all this, they shall be coordinating both internally as KCCA and with the Ministry of Health among other relevant agencies. 

He also says that they are coordinating with the Ministry of Health, surveillance unit, and local KCCA offices in markets, parks, and local governments to ensure there is effective communication and response to suspected or confirmed Ebola cases.  

This is the first Ebola disease outbreak caused by Sudan virus (SUDV) in Uganda since 2012.

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