CDC boosts response to Uganda's Ebola outbreak: 4 updates

The CDC has activated its emergency response structure in response to Uganda's Ebola outbreak, which has infected at least 54 people and killed 39, agency officials said during an Oct. 12 call

During the Clinician Outreach and Communication Activity Call, officials said the CDC is shoring up domestic preparedness efforts, "even though the risk of disease importation is low." 

"CDC has activated its emergency response structure at headquarters," Mary Choi, MD, medical officer of the agency's viral special pathogens branch, said during the call. "It has dedicated staff focusing on, responding to and managing this outbreak." 

The agency is also working to stand up its Ebola response team that would be able to mobilize anywhere in the U.S. in the event of a domestic case. The team would include medical officers, epidemiologists, infection control specialists and laboratorians. Given that the outbreak is currently limited to Uganda, the low number of travelers from Uganda to the U.S., and Uganda's previous experience in responding to Ebola outbreaks, health officials said the current risk of importation is low. 

Three more updates on the outbreak and CDC efforts: 

1. As of Oct. 12, the World Health Organization said there are 20 probable cases in addition to the 54 that have been confirmed in Uganda. Fourteen people have recovered. Uganda declared the outbreak Sept. 20, making it the country's largest in nearly two decades. Uganda's President Yoweri Museveni on Oct. 15 declared a three-week lockdown in two high risk districts: Mubende and Kassanda. The lockdown halts movement in and out of the districts, imposes curfews, and orders the closure of restaurants, places of worship, gyms and other entertainment venues. 

2. The strain behind the latest outbreak is named Sudan ebolavirus and existing vaccines are not effective against it. The World Health Organization said clinical trials for two experimental vaccines targeting the strain could start in Uganda within weeks, pending regulatory approval. In their Oct. 12 call, CDC officials said they are "outlining a process for accessing the experimental Sudan virus monoclonal antibody therapeutic," in the event it's needed for a domestic case. 

3. The CDC is currently updating clinical guidance for the management of patients suspected to have Ebola. In an Oct. 6 health alert, the agency also urged clinicians to consider Ebola as a possible diagnosis for patients with symptoms including fever, headache, muscle and joint pain, and unexplained bleeding. 

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