Ebola Outbreak Kills 14 People In Uganda, More Infected
Lawrence LeBlond for redOrbit.com – Your Universe Online
Ebola, one of the world’s deadliest viruses, has been confirmed in Uganda, where 14 people have already died from what health officials were calling a mysterious illness. The illness was not immediately described as Ebola because patients were not showing the typical signs of the lethal disease, the nation’s health minister told CNN on Sunday.
After news of the virus broke, a team of health experts from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Ugandan government were deployed to the area to begin emergency response measures, according to a government statement.
The experts discovered the strain was Ebola Sudan, one of the most common strains of the virus. This particular strain has been associated with a 70 percent mortality rate in recent years. The virus manifests as a hemorrhagic fever. The last severe outbreak occurred in 2000, killing 224 people in Uganda. It was first reported in 1976 in what is now the Democratic Republic of Congo, according to the CDC.
The strange disease was first reported in the area several weeks ago, according to a government statement.
Ignatius Besisira, an MP for Buyaga East County in the Kibaale district, said people first believed the unexplained deaths were from witchcraft. “Immediately, when there was confirmation that it was Ebola … patients ran out of Kagadi hospital (where some of the victims had died),” Besisira told the Guardian. “Even the medical officers are very, very frightened.”
Lab tests confirmed the illness was Ebola hemorrhagic fever. A baby from the village of Nyanswiga was the first confirmed death and so far 14 of some 20 that are known to have been infected have died. A clinical officer who treated the original case also fell ill and died soon afterward. Her four-month-old baby, admitted for treatment last Monday, died four days later.
The clinical officer’s sister, who took care of the baby when she became ill, has been admitted for treatment with similar symptoms, but is currently in stable condition, the government statement said.
There is no treatment or vaccine against Ebola, which is transmitted through close contact and, depending on the strain, can kill up to 90 percent of those who contract the virus.
While Ebola outbreaks occur every few years, the virus’s delicate composition has so far impeded a significant, long-duration attack. But much about the disease remains a mystery.
The CDC has a team of scientists stationed at a Ugandan laboratory who study Ebola and other deadly viruses that are often found in equatorial Africa. Ebola is among a list of viruses highlighted by the US as a potential biological-weapons threat.
Officials are currently trying to determine the extent of the outbreak, CDC spokesman Tom Skinner told CNN.com on Sunday. “These outbreaks have a tendency to stamp themselves out, if you will, if we can get in and … stop the chain of transmission,” he explained.
Health officials are urging area residents to report any suspected cases and avoid contact with anyone who has contracted the virus and to disinfect bedding and clothing of an infected person by using protective gloves and masks. They also advise against eating dead animals, especially monkeys, and to avoid public gatherings if at all possible.
Despite the ongoing threat, the WHO said in its statement that it does not recommend travel restrictions to Uganda because of the outbreak.
Besisira said officials in Kibaale had released radio broadcasts outlining the precautionary measures on Saturday. “We have assured (the people) that we have a very strong team … who are making sure the disease is controlled … I am very confident we can contain it,” he added.
While there are no reports of people moving out of the region, the Daily Nation newspaper in Kenya said on Sunday that people were leaving the area around Kagadi town, where the disease first appeared.
“We have to move to safer places because we can easily get infected by this disease here,” the paper quoted a resident, Omuhereza Kugonza, as saying.
Ebola is transmitted by direct contact with the body fluids and tissues of infected persons. It can also be transmitted by handling sick or dead infected wild animals, such as chimpanzees, gorillas, monkeys, forest antelope and fruit bats. Symptoms include sudden fever, intense weakness, muscle pain, headache and sore throat, followed by vomiting, diarrhea, rashes, impaired kidney and liver function and bleeding.