June 13 (UPI) — Uganda has confirmed three cases of the Ebola virus, its health ministry said, signaling that the outbreak health officials have battled to contain in the neighboring Democratic Republic of Congo is spreading.
On Tuesday, the World Health Organization and the Uganda Ministry of Health said a 5-year-old Congolese boy infected with the disease had entered the country Monday with other members of his family.
Wednesday, the ministry said the boy had died and two other family members — his 50-year-old grandmother and 3-year-old brother — were confirmed to be carrying the disease.
“Blood samples were drawn and sent for testing at the Uganda Virus Research Institute and both samples tested positive for Ebola,” the ministry’s press release said.
The ministry added that eight people who came in contact with those carrying the disease were being sought.
Uganda’s Minister of Health Dr. Jane Ruth Aceng said she held a meeting Wednesday with her DRC counterparts as well as members of WHO Uganda and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and they agreed to strengthen surveillance, especially at non-designated points of entry between the two countries, continue the rapid sharing of information, begin vaccinations of those who have come into contact with the family and other frontline works and repatriate to the DRC the remaining six family members who crossed into Uganda on Monday.
Health workers have been fighting to contain the disease in the DRC since the outbreak began in August.
As of Tuesday, the DRC has recorded 1,990 confirmed cases of Ebola and 94 probable cases in the last 10 months resulting in 1,405 deaths, its health ministry said in a release.
The DRC said it vaccinated 415 people against the disease Tuesday, which is on top of the 4,500 people it has already inoculated.
The Ugandan Ministry of Health told the public in its Wednesday press release that the vaccine is “very safe and effective” and that those who have come into contact with someone they suspect to be infected should get vaccinated “for their own and family protection.”
Meanwhile, officials at a border post between Kenya and Tanzania started a disease outbreak situation to increase preparedness in case of an emergency, WHO said.
Though not in response to the Ebola outbreak in nearby DRC, East African Community Secretary General Christophe Bazivamo said it was a timely exercise given the current situation.
“We need to continually test or system and ensure strengthened capacity,” he said.