Following a slow start to response efforts, a deadly outbreak of the Ebola virus in Uganda is now under control, according to the World Health Organization. At least 16 Ugandans have died since the end of July 2012.
Joaquim Saweka, the WHO representative in Uganda said that people with the slightest contact with Ebola patients are now isolated and being monitored.
“The structure put in place is more than adequate,” Saweka said. “We are isolating the suspected or confirmed cases.”
Ebola was confirmed on July 28, a few days after several villagers died in a remote corner of Western Uganda. Officials were slow to investigate because the patients didn’t show all of the hallmark signs of Ebola.
“The doctors in Kibaale say the symptoms were a bit atypical of Ebola,” said the president of Uganda in a national address. “They were not clearly like Ebola symptoms. Because of that delay, the sickness spread to another village.”
According to the international aid group, Doctors Without Borders, the first victim in the Uganda outbreak was a 3-month-old girl. Of the 65 people who attended the girl’s funeral, 15 later contracted the disease. Ugandan funerals are often elaborate events that draw large crowds.
In the public address on July 29, Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni urged people to take precautions against the spread of disease and to be vigilant for signs of Ebola symptom in the living and the deceased.
“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,” he said.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and the World Health Organization (WHO) have partnered with the Uganda Red Cross Society to train 100 volunteers on precautionary practices, health safety and infection control practices related to Ebola fever. According to News Time Africa, the volunteers help by spraying patients entering and leaving hospitals, bringing Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) to district authorities, and following up with the more than 200 confirmed contact cases.
“The 232 people came into contact with confirmed cases. We follow them up every day to check whether they have developed any symptoms,” said Fred Othieno, the Program Manager for the regional chapter of the Uganda Red Cross.
There is no specific treatment or vaccine for Ebola available. Doctors are only able to help by giving intravenous or oral re-hydration solutions, utilizing blood donations, or using other life support technology.
Ebola can spread through direct contact with body fluids such as saliva, blood, stool, vomit, urine and sweat. It can also spread by using skin piercing instruments previously used by an infected person or by touching the dead body of a person who died of Ebola, even through the soiled linen used by an infected person.
A CDC factsheet on Ebola says the disease is “characterized by fever, headache, joint and muscle aches, sore throat, and weakness, followed by diarrhea, vomiting, and stomach pain. A rash, red eyes, hiccups and internal and external bleeding may be seen in some patients.”
The Ebola outbreak in Uganda has sparked worries in neighboring Rwanda and Kenya. Rwanda has instituted several measures to curb the possible spread of the virus across borders. Kenya is currently investigating a case where a hospitalized patient is showing Ebola-like symptoms.
Medical Superintendent Jacktone Omoto said, “He’s also passing bloody urine. We have already sent blood samples to the Kenya Medical Research Institute in Siaya for testing and results are expected to be out earliest Friday.”
Ebola Outbreak in Uganda
Ebola Virus Outbreak in Uganda
At least 13 people have died from a deadly virus in Uganda.