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COVID-19: Scientists urge Ugandans stay vigilant

By Cecilia Okoth

Added 3rd July 2020 08:48 AM

Ugandan scientists are currently studying the use of convalescent plasma

COVID-19: Scientists urge Ugandans stay vigilant

Ugandan scientists are currently studying the use of convalescent plasma

Scientists in Uganda have advised the public to continue practising measures put in place to control the spread of COVID-19 in the country.

This comes after the World Health Organisation (WHO) in its latest advisory said COVID-19 asymptomatic people are not infectious and therefore cannot spread the disease.

In a video clip that has since gone viral on various social media platforms, Dr Maria Van Kerkhove, the COVID-19 World Health Organisation technical lead reveals, "from the data we have, it still seems to be rare that asymptomatic persons transmit the virus to a secondary individual."

The most common symptoms of COVID-19 according to the global health body are; fever, dry cough, and tiredness.

Other symptoms that are less common and may affect some patients include aches and pains, nasal congestion, headache, conjunctivitis, sore throat, diarrhoea, loss of taste or smell or a rash on skin or discoloration of fingers or toes.

Whereas the above symptoms are usually mild and begin gradually, WHO says most people (about 80%) recover from the disease without needing hospital treatment.

However, speaking to New Vision, Dr Bruce Kirenga, the principal investigator in the COVID-19 Immune Therapy project said whereas it is logical that people with no symptoms are less transmitters of diseases, the could still spread it.

Ugandan scientists are currently studying the use of convalescent plasma (blood donated by people who have recovered from COVID-19) to see whether it is viable for the treatment of the disease.

"For example when an asymptomatic person sneezes, they pump out more air giving the virus a push into the environment or to someone else," Kirenga said, adding that asymptomatic persons could eventually develop symptoms of the disease.

It is for the above reason that Kirenga cautioned asymptomatic patients to continue taking precautionary measures including self-isolation, wearing of masks among others.

When contacted, Prof. Ponsiano Kaleebu, the executive director Uganda Virus Research Institute who did not divulge further details on the matter said, "I doubt it is true that asymptomatic people are not infectious."

Dr Ekwaro Obuku the former president Uganda Medical Association said COVID-19 being a new virus means new discoveries shall be made every other day and it is not surprising that WHO backtracked on what it had said earlier.

"The issue of transmission has continued to disturb scientists. At one point they said it can't be transmitted from man to man, then they said it was not airborne. But we are in the discovery phase and generating new knowledge about the characteristics of the virus is expected," he said, there are going to be lots of shifting resolutions based on evidence that arises.

Obuku however called upon the COVID-19 scientific committee in Uganda to assess the above evidence by WHO and make recommendations for our population.

He also advised the Government to cut down on investments made, particularly the distribution of face masks and instead focus on strengthening general health services, scaling up immunisation that has since gone down, hire more doctors and nurses.

Uganda as of July 1 registered nine new COVID-19 cases. This brings the cumulative total confirmed cases to 902.

The confirmed cases include two truck drivers who arrived from Kenya via Malaba, five contacts from Tororo and two from Amuru districts.

 A total of 27 foreign truck drivers who tested positive for COVID-19 were sent back to their respective countries.

There are currently 847 recoveries and 188 active cases admitted in various hospitals.

The active admissions include 48 in Gulu, 39 in Mbale, 27 in Masaka, 20 in Mulago, 18 in Lira, 10 in Arua, 10 in Soroti, six in Kabale, three in Mbarara, three in Bombo, two in Fort Portal, one in Entebbe and one in Jinja hospitals.

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