A 5-year-old boy who was diagnosed with Ebola has died Wednesday in Uganda, becoming the first to die of the disease outside the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) since the current outbreak began last August.
The boy had crossed from DRC into neighbouring Uganda with five family members on Monday evening, according to Congolese health officials. He was subsequently taken to a Ugandan hospital when he exhibited symptoms, including vomiting blood.
The boy passed away Wednesday morning after becoming the first confirmed Ebola case outside DRC.
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The Ugandan health ministry said the child’s 50-year-old grandmother and three-year-old brother also had the disease and are being treated at a hospital near the Congo border.
It has also emerged that the boy’s mother, who is Congolese, had travelled to the DRC last month to take care of her father, who died later of Ebola.
Since Ebola returned to DRC last August, it has claimed about 1,400 lives, becoming the second largest in history. The disease has affected north-eastern provinces of DRC, where there are borders with Uganda, Rwanda and South Sudan, a report by The Guardian said.
According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), there is a high risk of the disease spreading regionally, but was quick to add that neighbouring Uganda had been preparing for months for a possible imported case.
Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the WHO’s director general, said a special committee has been placed on standby by his outfit to advise on whether a global health emergency should be declared.
Uganda has, meanwhile, vaccinated about 4,700 health workers against the disease while a rapid response team has been dispatched to identify others at risk.
The worst Ebola attack on the continent was recorded in 2014 in Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia, where more than 11,000 people died.
Why the disease is dangerous
Ebola virus disease (EVD) is a severe, often fatal illness in humans. It is often transmitted from animals to people, and then from people to people by direct contact with infected blood, bodily fluids or organs, or indirectly through contact with contaminated areas.
Formerly known as Ebola haemorrhagic fever, the disease is named after the Ebola River in DRC. It was first discovered in 1976.
According to the WHO, the incubation period of the disease is between two and 21 days. Some of the first symptoms include fever fatigue, muscle pain, headache and sore throat.
The other symptoms are vomiting, diarrhoea, rash, symptoms of impaired kidney and liver function, and in some cases, both internal and external bleeding.
People remain infectious as long as their blood contains the virus and it may also persist in different fluids including amniotic and placenta fluids in pregnant women and breast milk in lactating women at the time of infection.