Update: On September 20, 2022, Uganda health authorities declared an outbreak of Ebola within the country, the first outbreak in Uganda of the Sudan variant in 10 years. Nearly four months later on January 11, 2023, the World Health Organization declared an end to the Ebola disease outbreak in Uganda. Since the beginning of the outbreak, Medical Teams has been responding.

The outbreak began in a district adjacent to one of the settlements where Medical Teams works. Ebola spreads quickly from person to person and kills in a short time without early medical treatment, so our health teams screened people at health facilities, mobilized critical supplies, and collaborated with local health authorities to help protect people against this deadly virus.

Daryl Crowden, Medical Teams country director in Uganda, expressed his gratitude for the brave work of his staff:

“In the first days of the outbreak, people — including Medical Teams staff — were scared about providing care for patients. But even as they expressed those fears, they put on their coveralls, masks and boots; they did their jobs. Medical Teams health workers were involved from day one in the screening of patients, taking and transporting samples and suspected cases and in extensive community engagement to help raise awareness and knowledge of the disease. I am very proud of my team and the role they played in the management and containment of the virus.”

Medical Teams is proud to serve alongside so many courageous health workers, and we’re relieved conditions are now safer for everyone in Uganda.


Note: The following content was republished in October 2021.

It’s been nearly 10 years since the world’s largest Ebola virus outbreak, which originated in West Africa in late 2013. Medical Teams was on the frontlines then, as well as during a 2018 Ebola outbreak originating in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). Now, we’re staying vigilant and ready to respond in light of recent news of another potential outbreak.

What is Ebola and how does Ebola spread?

The virus was discovered in 1976 in a village along the Ebola River in DRC. Ebola is a highly contagious virus that causes severe fever and internal bleeding. The virus spreads through contact with bodily fluids. Without prompt detection and treatment, the virus spreads quickly throughout families and communities. The death rate of people who contract Ebola is about 50 percent.

As of 2021, estimated deaths from Ebola total more than 15,000 people.

Ebola in Congo 2018-2020

In 2018, the virus spread quickly through the Congo due to an increase in insecurity and violence that disrupted efforts to contain the outbreak. Rebel groups targeted health facilities and workers as they attempted to treat Ebola cases. Every time a facility was attacked, precious time was lost in combating the outbreak. The sick were discouraged from seeking medical care, scared that they would be vulnerable to the violence.

Because of the conflict, thousands of Congolese fled their homes, crossing over into Uganda. At the time, Medical Teams was the leading organization providing health screenings as refugees crossed the border.

A man and woman putting on protective clothing to screen for Ebola
Medical Teams staff put on protective clothing before screening newly-arrived refugees for Ebola.

“The country here is on high alert, expecting that at any time we’ll receive a confirmed case,” said Andrew Hoskins, former country director for Medical Teams International in Uganda. Before, Hoskins had led Medical Teams’ Ebola response efforts in Liberia during the disease’s deadliest outbreak in modern history. That outbreak, spanning 2013 to 2016, cut a deadly path through West Africa killing more than 11,000 people.

“Our goal is to be prepared for Ebola crossing the border. That means contain the outbreak and make sure it doesn’t become an epidemic,” Hoskins said at the time. “Medical Teams International is working alongside the Uganda government to safely isolate and transport any suspected cases to regional hospitals, which have special wards dedicated to Ebola and other types of hemorrhagic fevers.”

Whenever a refugee crossed the border of Uganda, Medical Teams staff checked their temperature and monitored them for symptoms of the virus. We also trained community health workers to educate community members about the signs of Ebola infection and what to do if a case was suspected.

A woman taking the temperature of another woman
A Medical Teams staff member carefully takes the temperature of a refugee.

An Ebola tragedy

Patricia was a refugee from northeastern Congo, near one of the areas hit hardest by the disease outbreak.

“My friend’s husband was taken ill one afternoon. Initially they thought it was malaria because of the fever, then the bleeding started,” Patricia said. “The health workers seemed to know what was happening but instead of telling the family what was going on, they left the health center and didn’t return.”

With nobody to treat her friend’s husband, he went back home. Within a few days, his two children, 5 and 12 years old, started showing symptoms of Ebola.

“When the children became ill, that was the moment my friend and her husband realized this was Ebola,” Patricia said.

Instead of seeking further treatment, the father and mother set their house on fire. The entire family died in the blaze, Patricia said.

We’re ready to help

To stop horrific situations from happening in Uganda and neighboring countries, Medical Teams staff are prepared to safely prevent the spread of disease. Your support ensures we’re prepared if Ebola crosses over the border. If and when that happens, your compassion will prevent suffering and save lives.

A man wearing scrubs instructs a crowd on the symptoms of Ebola
A health education session on the symptoms of Ebola led by a Medical Teams staff member.

You can support Ebola preparedness and provide life-saving care to refugees by donating today.

Note: Portions of this post were originally published in May 2019.