15 October 2000

Uganda: Ebola Virus Reported in Northern Uganda.

Kampala, Uganda — The dreaded Ebola virus that struck over 300 people in Kikwit, in the Democratic Republic of Congo in 1995, has killed 31 people in northern Uganda.

Ugandan ministry of health officials Saturday confirmed the prevalence of the disease for the first time in the country.

Ebola, described as a rapidly progressing disease, can kill within 24 hours. Victims of the disease described as Haemorrhagic fever, bleed through the mouth, anus, nose and ears, hence the description haemorrhagic fever.

Other symptoms include muscle pains and diarrhoea.

It is spread through body contact.

A ministry statement said laboratory tests had revealed that the dreaded Ebola virus was the cause of the epidemic that has been raging in Gulu district since September.

Three of the dead were student nurses, who treated the first Ebola patients admitted to a Lacor missionary hospital in Gulu town.

Field officials in Gulu told the Kampala-based New Vision newspaper that at least seven more people came down with the disease Saturday alone, bringing the number of people affected in the past two weeks to 51.

All the affected came from Rwot-Obillo in Aswa county, northern Gulu, Kasubi and Kabedo Opong in Gulu municipality.

The New Vision said at least five patients have recovered from the disease, and are quarantined in hospitals due to the fears associated with it.

Reports in Kampala are rife that the disease could have been brought into Uganda by returning Ugandan troops and their Congolese wives who are camped in Aswa.

But army spokesman, Maj. Phenehas Katirima, said no soldier in Gulu had suffered from the disease.

"The other day they were in Kololo (within Kampala) why didn't we get an outbreak in Kololo? Don't rush into speculation," Katirima told the paper.

Meanwhile, the ministry of health has embarked on an emergency recruitment of health education workers to curb the spread of the epidemic.

The workers are to visit the affected areas, teach the communities how to prevent the disease as well as look out for any new cases.

The ministry of health plans to supply drugs, protective wear and disinfectants to hospitals and health facilities in Gulu.

The medical personnel are to follow certain precautions to protect themselves and patients.

A task force headed by Gulu district administrator, Walter Ochora, has been set up to co-ordinate efforts to control the epidemic.

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