Gulu — A female patient who began bleeding through body openings has been taken into isolation at St Mary's Hospital Lacor in the northern Gulu District amid fears she could be suffering from Ebola.
Dr Emmanuel Ochola, an epidemiologist at the hospital, said the woman checked in at the facility last week from the neighbouring Adjumani District over a gynaecological complication.
"The patient came for medical check-up at the Gynaecology Ward on May 31. However, her condition wasn't good; she later began bleeding a lot from all body openings. The doctors detected high fever and haemorrhagic manifestations before she was rushed to an isolation ward," Dr Ochola said.
Ebola virus disease, formerly known as Ebola haemorrhagic fever, is a viral illness transmitted to people from wild animals and on average kills half of those infected, according to the World Health Organisation (WHO).
The incubation period --- the time interval from infection with the virus to onset of symptoms --- is two to 21 days, according to the UN health agency. It presents with "sudden onset of fever, fatigue, muscle pain, headache and sore throat followed by vomiting, diarrhoea, rash and, in some cases, both internal and external bleeding"
After the Gulu female patient was booked into isolation, doctors extracted samples which they sent for analysis at the Uganda Virus Research Institute in Entebbe last Saturday. The results are expected out today.
Dr Felix Ochom, a WHO staff in the Emergency and Preparedness Unit at the Uganda office in Kampala, said yesterday: "We are aware of the suspected case but we are working with the Ministry of Health. The samples were delivered to Entebbe using the Hub system and we are going to test them."
"We are monitoring the patient closely in isolation as we wait for the test results from UVRI; we are on high alert at the facility and have taken all the necessary precaution. We caution other health practitioners in various health facilities to be on high alert and refer suspicious cases of haemorrhagic fever immediately," Dr Ochola added.
There is no confirmation yet that the latest case is Ebola or another haemorrhagic fever. Gulu District suffered its first Ebola outbreak in 2000, killing more than half of the 400 infected persons, among them the lead doctor Matthew Lukwiya and 14 health workers.
Uganda registered another Ebola outbreak in the western Bundibugyo District in 2007, which killed 39 people, and again in the mid-western Kibaale District which was quickly contained in 2012.
The latest suspected case in Gulu comes in the wake of Ebola outbreak in the neighbouring Democratic Republic of Congo, with citizens from either country crisscrossing the porous border for business or to check on relatives.
Dr Ochola said yesterday that they were investigating whether the patient travelled from Adjumani to Gulu by public means so that they can begin tracing all persons who came in contact with her.
"Although we don't want to cause panic, the public should be aware that an outbreak of Ebola was registered in the Democratic Republic of Congo. It's far from our region, but not far though.... people should be on high alert and know that the spread of Ebola virus can be so fast and fatal," Dr Ochola said.
The spread of the disease, according to WHO, can be contained with effective case management, infection prevention and control practices, surveillance and contact tracing, a good laboratory service, safe burials and social mobilisation.
Ebola was first simultaneously registered in the DRC and a part of present-day South Sudan, but the worst recent occurred in the West African countries of Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia from 2014-16. And some Ugandan health workers were taken there to leverage their expertise to contain it.