The Ministry of Health has begun carrying out surveillance around communities neighbouring the Democratic Republic of Congo after an outbreak of meningitis in the North-Eastern Tshopo Province where 129 lives have been lost.
Health Minister Dr Ruth Aceng told URN in an interview that they are moving fast to deploy adequate surveillance teams to ensure all persons entering Uganda from DRC are screened for any infections. Dr Aceng says that many people in the meningitis hot spot areas were vaccinated a couple of years back but her ministry is cognizant of the public health challenge the disease might again put up.
The minister who is in Kasese district to close the one-week Oral Cholera Vaccination-OCV exercise said that Uganda is one of the countries with the highest rates of meningitis lying in the extended meningitis belt of Sub-Saharan Africa. She says the most susceptible regions include Lango, Teso, Karamoja. West Nile, Acholi and parts of Bunyoro.
Meningitis cases typically present with a stiff neck, high fever, and sensitivity to light, confusion, headaches and vomiting. Even when the disease is diagnosed early and adequate treatment is started, 5 to 10 per cent of patients die, typically within 24 to 48 hours after the onset of symptoms.
Left untreated, up to 50 per cent of cases may die.
Dr Aceng appealed to the district, authorities to guide the local population to be aware of what is at hand and the many other health threats across the region.
On the oral cholera vaccination campaign, Dr Aceng said Uganda continues to record cases of cholera outbreaks especially in communities neighbouring major lakes and those prone to floods. With the looming COVID-19 third wave, Aceng said that her ministry wants to contain all other outbreaks that could ruin their efforts to contain COVID-19.
Kasese District Vice Chairperson Jetress Ithungu, however, appealed to the government to allocate more vehicles to the district to enable responsible offices to make timely disease surveillance and monitoring. She also appealed for improved sanitation technologies for IDP’s who are still living in camps.
Rev. Amos Nintugonza who was the first person to receive the cholera vaccine in Karusandara sub-county told URN that he welcomed the vaccination because his area had initially been prone to cholera.
He says the vaccine did not have any side effects on him.
Diana Natukunda, a mother of two also welcomed the exercise to safeguard her family from the infection. However, Natukunda says they developed some mild fever and vomiting after receiving the vaccine that lasted for a day.