US aims to boost Ebola testing capacity as Uganda outbreak grows

The U.S. is working to expand its Ebola testing abilities to prepare for the possibility that the virus could make its way into the country, CBS News reported Oct. 25. 

Very few U.S. labs currently have the ability to test for the strain behind Uganda's current Ebola outbreak. In 2014 — the last time the U.S. faced an Ebola threat — the strain behind the outbreak was called Zaire ebolavirus. The FDA never authorized tests that were rolled out during that outbreak to be used for diagnosing the strain now behind the current outbreak, the Sudan ebolavirus. 

The CDC has been working to increase the number of labs that can test for the virus over the last few weeks. As of Oct. 25, 22 lab partners in the agency's Laboratory Response Network had the ability to test for the Sudan strain, a spokesperson told CBS. During an Oct. 12 call, CDC officials said the agency was 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, among other preparedness efforts, "even though the risk of disease importation is low." 

As of Oct. 26, there have been 109 confirmed Ebola cases in Uganda, including 30 deaths, according to the country's minister of health. 

The rest of the individuals with confirmed cases have been treated or are undergoing treatment. The WHO on Oct. 19 confirmed cases stood at 60. The latest death count is lower than earlier reports because it doesn't include those who probably died of Ebola before the outbreak was declared. (The World Health Organization reported 44 deaths on Oct. 19, based on probable cases.) 

Global health officials are also concerned about the increasing risks of transmission in Uganda's capital Kampala, where 14 cases have now been confirmed. Nine of those cases were reported Oct. 23 and are all contacts of an infected individual from a high-risk district who sought care in the city. Kampala is about 25 miles from Uganda's international airport.

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