Five years after the country celebrated the end of Ebola disease in Bundibugyo District in August 2007, government officials together with a World Health Organisation representative in Uganda have confirmed another outbreak in the country.
Another five years earlier in August 2000, villages in the districts of Gulu, Masindi and Mbarara were hit by Ebola affecting 425 patients of which 224 died. In January 2001 Uganda was then declared Ebola free.
In August 2007 the second bout of the disease hit the country affecting 149 cases with 37 deaths. The current outbreak reported to have started in the Western district of Kibaale has so far claimed 16 lives with another 37 admitted with a total of 50 cases accumulated since the onset.
Of those under quarantine and observation are seven doctors and 13 medical workers who responded to the outbreak of the disease. Among the dead is a health worker believed to have attended to the dead at Kagadi Hospital in Kibaale district.
In a public statement made by President Yoweri Kaguta Museveni to the Nation, he advised the public to desist from physical contact like shaking hands, hugging, promiscuous acts and burying those suspected to have died from the disease.
He also advised the public to report all cases which appear to be like Ebola with symptoms of sudden fever, intense weakness, muscle pain, headache and sore throat followed by vomiting, diarrhoea, rushes, impaired kidney and liver function bleeding.
According to Ministry of Health officials, blood samples taken from the sick people and the dead examined at Entebbe Virus Research Institute confirmed the disease. However the officials advise the public not to panic but to remain vigilant.
The Minister of Health Christine Ondoa says the number of cases that have been in contact with the victims or the dead that are being followed up is 232. 37 specimens have been collected by the ministry officials of which five have been confirmed to be Ebola.
“With the mobilisation we have with out partners the World Health Organisation, the US Centre of Disease Control and Prevention, and the Medicins Sans Frontiers, we feel we will be able to contain this outbreak.”
The Ministry of Health search on this outbreak traces it back to Kibale in Nyamuranda Sub County although there are no concrete details. “Of the 16 deaths, ten are members of one family and the other three from another family, and the other three from the same county. We have not confirmed any other cases outside this sub county,” explains the Minister.
Further information from the ministry indicates that the Ebola virus has its reservoir in animals, the primates (monkeys, baboons and bats). Prior to this outbreak, the minister says that following the previous series of the outbreak, her ministry embarked on ecological studies which involve looking at the animal species from different parts of the country in the primate family.
“We have carried out different samples from the forests so that if a particular forest and animals in that forest have the virus reservoir we will be able to know and will be able to handle but so far the places where these studies have been done we have not established any apart from the Marburg virus which was confirmed in one of the forests.”
Minister Ondoa says further studies are on going with support from various other ministries like Finance, Tourism and Agriculture to expand the research. Meanwhile, government has set up a national emergency task force with these hotlines: 0774451762, 0706506294, and 0757174555.
WHO describes the disease as a viral haemorrhagic fever caused by the Ebola virus. It is charicterised by high fever and bleeding into the skin. It was identified in a Western Equatorial Province of Sudan and a nearby region of the Democratic Republic of Congo in 1976.
Ebola is transmitted by direct contact with the body fluids and tissues of infected person and can also be transmitted by handling sick or dead infected wild animals such as chimpanzees, gorillas, monkeys, forest antelope and fruit bats.
The body fluids include: blood, tears, saliva, seminal fluids, vaginal fluids and sweat. The disease is not airborne.
By Savio Kyambadde