Patrick Serugo, 30, resides in Kanseera Village, Kassanda District. He has two wives and four children of ages 11, 7, 4 and 3 years old. Patrick rarely falls sick but on October 25, 2022, he developed a high temperature and general body weakness after being in close contact with his close friend, Matovu – a very sociable and loveable person in the community. Matovu had developed similar symptoms, but had failed to respond to his daily treatment at a nearby clinic. When he started bleeding profusely at home, an ambulance was called to transport him to Mubende Regional Referral Hospital (RRH). Unfortunately he passed away. The cause of death was the Ebola Disease (EVD), and a search for his contacts was launched.
When the District Ebola Surveillance team visited Kanseera Village and conducted a search, Patrick who was one of Matovu’s numerous contacts and friends, was afraid to come forward. “I had just learned of the demise of other Ebola cases and I was worried,” says Patrick. It was not until the symptoms of high temperature and joint pains worsened that he sought medical help at Kikandwa HCIII, a government healthcare facility.
On September 20, 2022, the Ministry of Health announced an outbreak of the Sudan strain of the Ebola in Mubende District that neighbours Kassanda district. According to the In-Charge of the HC III, Patrick was showing Ebola disease symptoms, so the In-Charge called for an ambulance that whisked Patrick away to Mubende RRH where he too was diagnosed with Ebola. At the treatment unit, doctors laboured to give Patrick the necessary treatment, which he responded to, and joined the list of survivors who had contracted the virus from Matovu.
Patrick was delighted to be discharged on November 4, 2022, and was expecting a warm welcome, but the community stigmatized and discriminated against him. Even though Patrick is aware that the community’s reactions were stemming from their belief that no one could recover from the Ebola Virus, he sorrowfully shares his experience. “If they wanted to offer me anything, they would throw it at me.” The community has gradually been able to regain its trust in Patrick and other survivors because of the work of the psychosocial counselors who routinely held community dialogue meetings and sensitization seminars to allay residents’ anxieties about the EVD.
These psychosocial counselors are from the USAID-supported Ministry of Health Led National Ebola Virus Survivors Program dubbed ‘The Survivors’ Clinic’. The program that is implemented by Baylor Uganda with support from the Ministry of Health helps to reintegrate Ebola survivors into their communities by providing regular medical care, mental health and psychosocial support. Additionally, they counseled male survivors and their spouses on safer sex until the men’s semen is Ebola free because multiple studies have shown that the Ebola Virus can survive for a while in their semen.
“I managed to convince my wife to allow us to have protected sex until my body fluids are clear of the virus,” says Patrick who thought that he had overcome his biggest challenge, until he started developing post-Ebola medical concerns including muscle pain, eye problems, joint pains, body weakness and tiredness, headaches and scrotal problems. To his relief, his fellow survivors had also developed the same. They are all receiving treatment at the Survivors’ Clinic government owned Mubende RRH.
Baylor-Uganda’s Global Health Security (GHS) Program works with the Ministry of Health (MOH) and other partners to improve health security and build International Health Regulations core capacities in the Republic of Uganda. The program operates at the national, subnational levels (covering four regions of Rwenzori, Bunyoro, Soroti and Kampala) health facility and community levels and has contributed to strengthening country-level capacity to prevent and detect and respond to public health threats of national and international concern. Our GHS capacity is distinctive in Uganda, covering rural and rural settings across five action packages under the global health security agenda (GHSA), including 1) Public Health surveillance, 2) National Laboratory Systems, 3) Antimicrobial resistance (AMR) prevention and control; 4) Border Health Security/ Points of Entry (POE); 5) Public health emergency preparedness and response.