By Vision team
A number of schools in Buyaga County have been closed following the outbreak of the deadly Ebola virus in Kibale district.
The Ministry of Health and the World Health Organisation (WHO) on Saturday confirmed an outbreak of the deadly Ebola haemorrhagic fever in Kibaale District, over 200km west of Kampala.
The incurable disease, caused by a virus, has killed at least 13 people in Nyanswiga Village in Nyamarunda sub-county since it broke out three weeks ago. The affected families initially thought it was either witchcraft or evil spirits. As a result they took the first patients to Owobusubozi Bisaka’s shrine for prayers. Bisaka is the leader of a religious sect called Faith of Unity. Two patients died in that shrine.
The disease presents with high fever, vomiting, diarrhoea and blood oozing from the mouth and nose at the time of death.
“Laboratory investigations carried out at the Uganda Virus Research Institute in Entebbe have confirmed that the strange disease which has been reported for some time in Kibaale is indeed an Ebola variety,” Dr. Denis Lwamafa, acting director general of health services, told the press at the ministry headquarters.
Following confirmation of Ebola, health workers in Kibaale have taken over management of burials.
At Kagadi Hospital, an isolation ward was set up, where relatives are not allowed to attend to their patients for fear that they might contract the disease.
Dr. Joachim Saweka, the WHO country representative, said WHO Geneva would dispatch 2,000 sets of protective gear and body bags to prevent spread of the disease. Additional assistance is expected from the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention.
There are five types of Ebola namely Ebola Zaire, Ebola Sudan, Ebola Côte d’Ivoire, Ebola Bundibugyo and Ebola Reston. The type confirmed in Kibaale is Ebola Sudan, which is less deadly than Ebola Zaire. When Ebola Sudan broke out in Gulu in 2,000, about four out of every 10 patients were able to recover. On the contrary, Ebola Zaire inevitably kills most of the people who get it.
Meanwhile, fear gripped Mulago Hospital workers on Friday after it emerged that one of the patients who died there last week had come from Kibaale.
The patient, a 40-year-old woman named Clare Muhumuza, was received at Mulago on the evening of Friday June 20 and died within a few hours. She was the clinical officer treating the patients at Kagadi Hospital.
“She came to Mulago very sick and by morning she was dead. She suffered multiple organ failure,” said a senior doctor in Mulago.
Doctors and nurses in Mulago yesterday expressed fears that they had handled the patient without protection in ignorance.
Those who handled the patient are likely to be quarantined and observed closely for 21 days.
Currently Suzan Nabulya, a sister to the late Muhumuza, who was tending to her before she died, has been admitted at Kagadi Hospital while Muhumuza’s four month old baby, Milca Ninsima, has died.
Cause: Ebola is caused by a virus belonging to a family called filovirus. There are five distinct types of the virus namely Ebola Zaire, Ebola Sudan, Ebola Côte d’Ivoire, Ebola Bundibugyo and Ebola Reston.
Transmission: The disease is transmitted through direct contact with the blood, secretions, organs, fluids or bodies of infected persons. Family members and health workers handling the patients can become infected easily if they do not wear protective facilities such as gloves and masks. Ebola is not air borne.
Symptoms: The average incubation period is 21 days. The disease is characterised by sudden onset of fever, intense weakness, muscle pain, headache and sore throat. This is often followed by vomiting, diarrhoea, rash, impaired kidney and liver function, and in some cases, both internal and external bleeding.
Treatment: No specific treatment or vaccine is yet available for Ebola haemorrhagic fever. There is neither a cure nor a vaccine for Ebola. The patients are given symptomatic treatment to reduce pain and prevent dehydration. Several potential vaccines and drugs are being tested but it could take years before any is available.
How to protect yourself
Isolate suspected cases from other patients
Wear gloves, goggles and masks while handling patients
Patients’ clothing should be disinfected with household bleach such as JIK
Areas contaminated with patient’s fluids should be disinfected with household bleach such as JIK
Avoid touching the bodies of those who have died of Ebola
People who have died from Ebola should be promptly and safely buried
History in Uganda
By Carol Natukunda
Ebola has been in Africa since 1976, when it first broke out in present-day Democratic Republic of Congo near the River Ebola. The disease occurs throughout Central Africa and is suspected to be contracted through contact with monkeys and other primates of the jungle.
Uganda’s first outbreak was in Gulu District in 2000. It killed 170 people, and infected about 425 more. It was the first time the strain appeared in the country, and remains the largest documented epidemic so far.
At the peak of the epidemic in October 2000, Dr Matthew Lukwiya, medical superintendent of Lacor Hospital, died of the highly contagious disease. Twelve nurses also lost their lives after contracting the disease. It was reported that the health workers “came under risk from being overwhelmed with work”.
In Masindi District, there were five Ebola deaths and 24 confirmed cases. More Ebola cases were reported in nearly three districts including Kitgum and Mbarara. Six months after that year’s outbreak, Uganda was declared Ebola-free in February 2001.
The second outbreak was in November 2007 in the western Bundibugyo District. About 148 people were infected with the disease and 37 people killed. Among them was Dr. John Kule, an International Medical Group doctor who, like Lukwiya, struggled to treat victims putting his own life at risk. The outbreak was officially declared over on February 20, 2008.
In May 2011, the third outbreak was confirmed in Luwero District, 60km north of Kampala. Two cases were confirmed, among them a 12-year-old girl who died shortly after being admitted at Bombo Military Hospital. The Government announced a month later that the deadly disease was under control as there was no confirmed case after May 6 when the first case was reported.