Wednesday, 19 September 2018


Influenza in Uganda

Influenza, commonly referred to as the flu, is an infectious disease caused by RNA viruses of the family Orthomyxoviridae (the influenza viruses), that affects humans, birdsand other mammals. The virus spreads easily from person to person. Influenza circulates worldwide and can affect anybody in any age group.

Influenza is a serious public health problem that causes severe illnesses and deaths for higher risk populations. The most common symptoms of the disease are chills, fever, sore throat, muscle pains, severe headache, coughing, weakness/fatigue and general discomfort. Sore throat, fever and coughs are the most frequent symptoms.

In more serious cases, influenza causes pneumonia, which can be fatal, particularly for the young and the elderly. An influenza epidemic can take an economic toll through lost workforce productivity, and strain health services.

  The Influenza project is all about surveillance work.

In 2007 surveillance activities were initiated at sentinel sites in the central region (Kampala and Entebbe), and this was later extended to north western Uganda (to the West Nile region - Arua and Koboko districts).  There were 3 sentinel sites in Kampala and 1 site in Entebbe, plus 1 sentinel site for each of Arua and Koboko districts.

 In 2008 surveillance was extended to one more site in Kampala and one was closed down. With the advent of Pandemic Influenza A (H1N1) more sentinel sites have been opened up in Kampala. The new sites were targeted to collect samples from the local communities (Kitebi Health Center IV) but also from expatriate staff and affluent societies (The UN Clinic and the Surgery Clinic) who are more likely to travel out of the country and come in with different types of influenza. In Koboko a satellite sentinel site (Labole) was started and it works in close collaboration with the main site in Koboko town. Surveillance was started in May 2009 in south western Uganda, in Mbarara district at the Mbarara Regional Referral Hospital. Ten sites are therefore active. Plans are underway to start surveillance in Western (Kabalore district) and Eastern Uganda (Tororo district).

The Ministry of Health and the World Health Organisation Country offices have requested us the NIC to open more sites to cover the country. The NIC works in collaboration with the Makerere University Walter Reed Program (MUWRP) which also has sentinel sites in Jinja, Bugiri, and Kayunga Districts in Central and Eastern Uganda together with a sentinel site at Mulago hospital, the National Referral Hospital in Kampala.  MUWRP is also going to expand their sentinel sites to western and northern Uganda.

 Surveillance objectives

  • To determine the epidemiology of influenza viruses and provide data to document the disease burden and the public health risk posed in Uganda
  • To identify and monitor seasonal strains of circulating influenza viruses for vaccine composition for the Southern hemisphere
  •  To prepare and strengthen capacities to prevent a pandemic 
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