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Uganda should brace for more influenza viruses – Experts

Risk of having continuous zoonotic diseases happening in Africa is 100% according to Dr Mohammed Lamorde.

Kampala, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT | Experts in infectious diseases have asked the government to build resilient systems in tackling epidemics and pandemics.

Speaking during the annual Infectious Diseases Institute (IDI) science fair that closed on Thursday, Dr Mohammed Lamorde, Head of Global Health Security Programme at the Institute said Uganda can’t eliminate viruses and that the country might get another influenza-related outbreak in the next two years.

Noting that the risk of having continuous zoonotic diseases happening in Africa is 100%, Larmorde said the country should just build a health system that can quickly detect threats early on before they deteriorate to epidemic levels that require a lot of investment to counter.

He cited a surveillance model donors established way back in the West Nile region to curb zoonotic diseases but was used in the Ebola haemorrhagic fever response and recently in the COVID-19 response as an approach government can use to stay on guard so that a lot of lives are not unnecessarily lost in case of an emergency.

He says increasingly, health workers report that patients come in and all tests come out negative and yet they end up dying without knowing what exactly claimed them, something he attributes to health workers not testing for infectious diseases.

He says this is an indication to health workers that there are many hidden infections that they are not establishing because in a study they conducted in Mubende and Arua regional referral hospitals where they screened 128 patients, 50 had not had any microbiological diagnosis but still died mysteriously.

In the wake of many mysterious infections that could be life-threatening, the experts recommend heightened testing capabilities and ensure that health workers are protected.

According to behavioural scientist Dr Joseph Matovu, the single most important practice to do is ensuring that health workers practice proper hand hygiene since they deal directly with the patients.

This however comes at a time of increased outcry by health workers over Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) with complaints by sections of health workers that while supplying protective gear, the Ministry focuses on those that work in a highly infectious environment such as COVID-19 and Ebola labs at the expense of others that work at the first points of care.

Lamorde said they did an assessment of hand hygiene among health workers in Western Uganda where they found those that had access to alcohol-based sanitizers used it more than those that used soap and water after handling patients with unclear or unknown infections. He says they did this assessment among health workers involved in the Ebola response.

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