Introduction: The Ebola virus, belonging to the family of filoviruses, was first recognized in 1976 when it caused concurrent outbreaks in Yambuku in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), and in the town of Nzara in Sudan. Both countries share borders with Uganda. A total of 425 cases and 224 deaths attributed to Ebola haemorrhagic fever (EHF) were recorded in Uganda in 2000/01. Although there was delayed detection at the community level, prompt and efficient outbreak investigation led to the confirmation of the causative agent on 14 October 2000 by the National Institute of Virology in South Africa, and the subsequent institution of control interventions.
Control interventions: Public health interventions to contain the epidemic aimed at minimizing transmission in the health care setting and in the community, reducing the case fatality rate due to the epidemic, strengthening co-ordination for the response and building capacity for on-going surveillance and control. Co-ordination of the control interventions was organized through the Interministerial Committee, National Ebola Task Force, District Ebola Task Forces, and the Technical Committees at national and district levels. The World Health Organization (WHO) under the Global Outbreak Alert and Response Network co-ordinated the international response. The post-outbreak control interventions addressed weaknesses prior to outbreak detection and aimed at improving preparations for future outbreak detection and response. Challenges to control efforts included inadequate and poor quality protective materials, deaths of health workers, numerous rumors and the rejection of convalescent cases by members of the community.
Conclusions: This was recognized as the largest reported outbreak of EHF in the world. Control interventions were very successful in containing the epidemic. The community structures used to contain the epidemic have continued to perform well after containment of the outbreak, and have proved useful in the identification of other outbreaks. This was also the first outbreak response co-ordinated by the WHO under the Global Outbreak Alert and Response Network, a voluntary organization recently created to co-ordinate technical and financial resources to developing countries during outbreaks.