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The Sudan virus outbreak in Uganda: Why it matters to Canadians

By Avery Sharpe, November 7 2022

The pandemic has taught the world many things, one of which is that viruses need to be acted upon fast to avoid further spreading the disease. This lesson is the exact reason why the recent outbreak of Ebola in the African country of Uganda is such a pressing issue, and should be a matter of importance to everyone, even those living in Canada. 

Ebola disease is a devastating and deadly virus, which has subcategories depending on the causative virus. The current type of outbreak in Uganda, which began on Sept. 20, 2022, is called the Sudan virus, which has had an estimated fatality rate of 41 per cent to 100 per cent in past epidemics. The disease presents with symptoms such as a fever, headache, and muscle pain, which can quickly develop into more severe symptoms like vomiting, diarrhea, and impaired kidney and liver function. The virus is spread through bodily fluids like blood, feces and vomit, and past outbreaks of the disease have spread quickly and wreaked havoc on thousands of lives.

Looking at how devastating Ebola has been in the past, it is then important to consider how it is — or should be — kept under control. The World Health Organization has had a quick reaction to the reported outbreak, helping to do things like support surveillance structures and establish treatment units, but there has been little direct global support from notable countries like The United States of America or Canada. The United Kingdom will provide 2.5 million dollars in support of the response, so why hasn’t the Canadian government stepped up to the plate to offer its support?

The entire world has been hit hard by the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, so a new outbreak of the Sudan virus has a much larger impact on the already weakened healthcare system in Uganda than ever before. The disease has already killed four healthcare workers and is due to kill even more if the virus is not contained. Doing so, however, is expensive, as materials like personal protective equipment and test kits take much funding to manufacture and distribute. Unfortunately, the lack of international support could have large implications, as it is imperative to get on top of the outbreak now and not wait until it spreads internationally to care.

Another huge reason the Sudan virus needs to be addressed is that previously developed vaccines for the Ebola virus are not effective against this Sudan strain of the disease. The lack of a vaccine is huge and puts the risk factor of the disease much higher. New vaccines are being tested against the Sudan virus, but progress can depend highly on donations and research funding. The big question then is, why do countries like Canada wait until something affects them before helping to fight the problem? It was evident from the widespread use of COVID-19 vaccines that they can exponentially help to slow the spread of a virus, so it would be incredibly beneficial for one to be developed to fight the Sudan Virus Disease.

So far the only statement Canada has put out regarding the Uganda outbreak is a travel advisory on Oct. 7 to be cautious when visiting Uganda, which is really just a protection measure for its own citizens. As we have learned from the quick spread of COVID-19, measures must be taken to prevent the spread of contagious disease as soon as it appears, rather than wait. No one life should be worth more than another, but that is the message countries put out when they ignore such a volatile health crisis.

We have all learnt so much from the COVID-19 pandemic, but it seems there are still more lessons to be learned for Canada and other rich countries. The stable economy and health of Canada are not to be taken for granted, and so the growing outbreak in Uganda should not be ignored. Without proper preventative measures and vaccine research an outbreak can lead to an endemic, and an endemic can lead to a pandemic, which Canada and the rest of the world are certainly not prepared for.

This article is a part of our Opinions section and does not necessarily reflect the views of the Gauntlet editorial board.

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