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U of M RESPOND teams support efforts to manage Ebola outbreak in Uganda

Photo: Cynthia Goldsmith via CDC

As Uganda continues to battle an outbreak of the Ebola virus, the country is getting support from a source that might surprise Health Talk readers: the University of Minnesota.

Health officials have determined that the strain of Ebola impacting Uganda is the Sudan species – one of the most deadly of five Ebola virus species.  Fatality rates of the Ebola virus can range from 25 to 90 percent and past outbreaks of the Sudan species have resulted in fatality rates between 41 to 65 percent.  A single case in 2011 also resulted in death.

According to a recent Fox News report, more than 50 people have been infected in the current outbreak, with 16 deaths reported.

Treating Ebola can be complicated.  There’s no actual treatment for the virus in the way most people think of how we battle illness.  Care delivered is often supportive – containing infection and ensuring patients are kept hydrated while their immune system battles the virus.  There’s also no vaccine, which means it’s critical for health workers to prevent the transmission of the disease during an outbreak.

This is where the University of Minnesota enters the equation.

In 2009, the University of Minnesota implemented a multidisciplinary project called RESPOND, which works to pre-empt or combat the first stages of emerging zoonotic pandemics — diseases that can spread between animals and humans.

Currently, RESPOND teams are helping in Uganda by working to prevent the continued spread of the latest Ebola outbreak.  Teams are coordinating the issue of Personal Protective Equipment (PPEs) to the National Task Force at outbreak sites in the Kibaale District of Uganda and in the Mulago Referral hospital, where suspected Ebola cases are being managed.

In addition, RESPOND staff is playing a key role in disease monitoring in the outbreak areas.  If they can help keep outbreaks contained, lives could ultimately be saved.

School of Public Health alums from the Executive Program in Public Health Practice have also headed to Uganda to lead the CDC’s investigation on the Ebola outbreak.

Stay tuned to Health Talk for updates on how the University’s RESPOND teams and faculty are assisting with continued outbreaks in Uganda and beyond.  As long as emerging pandemics arise, RESPOND will likely be providing support.

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