6 Isolated in Fear of Monkeypox

  • by Rodney Mponye
  • June 10, 2022

six individuals are feared to have contracted monkeypox and samples from their blood have been flown to South Africa for testing. Among the Six, two of them Congolese refugees aged 2 and 12.

The samples are being taken for laboratory analysis to SA, some 4,800 kilometres away, because Uganda has no reagents and officials confirmed attempts to secure them from the neighbouring DR Congo are still unsuccessful.

Uganda Virus Research Institute (UVRI), an otherwise premier laboratory and virological research institute, said it commenced preliminary investigations after receiving information that half-a-dozen individuals had presented with signs and symptoms similar to that of monkeypox.

Two of the suspected cases have been isolated in the south-western Kisoro District, which borders the DR Congo and Rwanda, while four persons have been taken into isolation in Kampala City.

Health workers managing the patients said they presented with elevated body temperatures and blisters, prompting them to take samples for tests to confirm or rule out monkeypox.

Prof Pontiano Kaleebu, the UVRI director, told this newspaper yesterday that they are sending the samples to South Africa for analysis because Uganda doesn’t have reagents to test them.

“We are making arrangements to send. There are four samples. We still don’t have reagents to test for the monkeypox virus here; that is why we are sending the samples [to South Africa],” he said.

Dr Julius Lutwama, a virologist at the Institute, said earlier that they have made a request to their partner institute at the University of Kinshasa in the DR Congo, to give them reagents for testing the monkeypox virus.  DR Congo has been grappling with the disease for years.

He saidt even after getting the reagents, they don’t plan to test everybody entering the country because it is not necessary.  “We will only test suspected cases,” Dr Lutwama said.
Dr Allan Muruta, the commissioner in charge of Epidemics at  the Ministry of Health, said they have registered “many suspected cases”.

“You should engage me after the laboratory test results. These are suspected cases. Monkeypox symptoms are similar to so many things including chicken pox. The suspected cases have been isolated,” he said.

But like Dr Lutwama, the commissioner said Ugandans do not have to worry much about the disease.
“It is a well-known virus. It has been around [in the neighbouring DR Congo] and it doesn’t cause much of a scare, it can be managed,” Dr Muruta said.

Two of the suspected cases have been registered among Congolese refugees, who have fled an onslaught by M23 rebels, and are camped at Nyakabande Refugee Transit Camp in Kisoro District.