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By Godfrey Olukya   10-5-2013

U.S. Mission Uganda, in collaboration with the U.S. Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa (CJTF-HOA), recently partnered with the Government of Uganda on a training exercise to improve the surveillance and reporting of disease outbreaks in Uganda.  This vital “One Health” training program, held in Luwero district, equipped more than 40 Ugandan veterinary and public health workers with the skills to respond effectively to disease outbreaks.

The 10-day training included classroom sessions on basic disease surveillance, recognition, and epidemiology, as well as water sanitation, hygiene, nutrition, family planning, and maternal and child health. One Health also included field sessions within the community to train participants in prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of livestock and human diseases.

Thomas Easley, who heads the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) Emerging Pandemic Threats Program in Uganda, says that One Health selected Luwero district for the training because it was the epicenter for the world’s last outbreak of the Ebola virus—a highly contagious, often-fatal virus believed to be transmitted to humans by animals.

“The One Health training exercise assists local and regional efforts to asses and address immediate veterinary and public health needs. It reinforces preventive medicine techniques, to reduce livestock and human mortality and the incidence of infectious disease outbreaks, especially those that originate from animals, both wild and domestic,” explained Easley.

One Health pairs experts in human and animal healthcare from the Uganda People’s Defense Force (UPDF) and CJTF-HOA with their civilian counterparts in an effort to increase communities’ understanding of the connections between human, animal, and ecosystem health and, in turn, topreempt or combat the emergence of infectious diseases.

Leading these efforts for the UPDF was its Director for Public Health, Col. Dr. Samuel Kasule. With help from USAID, Kasule’s team arranged for more than 40 community public and animal healthcare specialists, as well as five UPDF medics, to visit local farms. At the farms, the teams worked together to test livestock for signs of deadly diseases such as anthrax and tuberculosis, to perform de-worming, and to administer preventive care.

“We come here together and try to address issues of public health,” said Kasule.  “We try to make sure that animals produced here on the farm are healthy enough because they will end up in the food chain and be consumed by humans.”

Dr. Douglas Kibuuka, a local veterinarian whose practice covers the small village of Kakute, where Ebola broke out in November 2012, says the One Health exercise gave him new skills.

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