Ebola outbreak rages in Uganda, killing 16

Updated: 2012-08-03 09:42


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An Ebola outbreak in Uganda is always a nightmare that pushes up the panic levels in the East African country, costing it tourism and trade revenues.

News by the ministry of health that the latest outbreak in the mid-western district of Kibaale has now killed 16 people and over 176 others are being monitored has pushed up the fear.

Among those being monitored and quarantined are seven doctors and 13 health workers who treated their colleague who traveled from Kibaale to the capital Kampala to seek medical help after handling Ebola patients.

For weeks in July, residents of Nyanswiga village, the epicenter of the current outbreak faced a strange disease that was killing their own in virulent ways.

The victims presented with symptoms like fever, vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal pain, headache, measles-like rash, red eyes, and sometimes with bleeding from body openings.

Laboratory results announced on July 28 confirmed the strange disease as Ebola, a deadly hemorrhagic fever.

Reports that the highly infectious disease had spread to the capital Kampala pushed up the panic levels with the country's President Yoweri Museveni cautioning people to avoid physical contact.

"I therefore appeal to you to be vigilant, avoid shaking of hands; do not take on burying somebody who has died from symptoms which look like Ebola instead call the health workers to be the ones to do it and avoid promiscuity because these sicknesses can also go through sex," said Museveni.

"When people are sick in hospitals with symptoms which look like Ebola, they should be handled by medical workers wearing protective gear. When we handle this case well we can eliminate Ebola quickly," he added.

Reports from the epicenter of the outbreak indicate that the admission of patients suspected to be infected with the Ebola to Kagadi Hospital has forced other patients to flee from the facility.

Steven Byarugaba, the chairperson of the district Ebola taskforce was quoted by the Daily Monitor on Thursday as saying that patients admitted to the hospital when an isolation ward was set up to accommodate those suspected of suffering from Ebola have since abandoned the hospital.

"Several families including mine have been relocated to other sub-counties," said Robert Kyamanywa, who heads a non-governmental organization in Nyamarunda Sub-county,where Ebola was first confirmed on July 28.

More than 200 schools have been closed in the district ahead of the official closing date on Friday.

"After consultation with district leaders and relevant medical officials, we have closed schools in the counties of Buyaga East, Buyaga West and Buyanja," the district education officer John Kyaboona told Daily Monitor on Monday.

The closure is a precautionary measure to prevent a possibility of massive infections given the fact that Ebola is highly infectious.

In abid to plug the panic, the World Health Organization and the ministry of health announced that the outbreak can be contained and urged countries not to issue traveler trade restrictions to Uganda.

Christine Ondoa, Uganda's health minister told reporters here on Monday that her ministry continues to undertake active and sustained tracing and listing of all possible contacts with the patients, who succumbed to the epidemic.

"The ministry of health assures the public that it is working around the clock with its international partners to rapidly assess the extent of the outbreak and to bring it fully under control as quickly as possible," she said.

A team of experts from the ministry of health, WHO, and the American Center for Diseases Control has been dispatched to the epicenter of the outbreak.

The teams are combing the villages looking for suspected cases and those found have been put in isolation units where they are receiving treatment.

Currently there is no specific treatment or vaccine available for Ebola but the patients require intensive supportive care, as they are frequently dehydrated and in need of intravenous fluids or oral re-hydration with solutions containing electrolytes.

The last outbreak in Uganda was in 2011 and in late 2007 the outbreak in the western district of Bundibugyo claimed 37 lives out of the 148 infected.

The worst Ebola outbreak in Uganda occurred in 2000, when the disease claimed the lives of 224 people.