Uganda starts Ebola surveillance after outbreak in Guinea
Publish Date: Mar 25, 2014
Uganda starts Ebola surveillance after outbreak in Guinea
The year was 2012. Health officials chat with an Ebola suspect at Bundibugyo Hospital isolation camp
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By Francis Kagolo & Agencies

The ministry of health has reactivated an emergency operating centre to conduct surveillance on Ebola following an outbreak in West Africa.

“I am receiving surveillance report updates on my phone and board from time to time,” Dr. Jane Ruth Aceng, the director general of health services, told New Vision Tuesday.

“Our surveillance team is monitoring borders including the airport. We don’t want to be caught off gaurd.”

At least 59 people are known to have died of Ebola in Guinea's southern forests and there are 86 more suspected infections since last week. The virus is feared to have spread to the neighbouring Liberia with six suspected cases.

And there are more fears the virus may have crossed continents, with a man returning to Canada from Liberia seriously ill in hospital after experiencing symptoms consistent with the virus, health officials said.

"As of this morning (yesterday) six cases have been reported of which five have already died -- four female adults and one male child. One of the suspected cases, a female child, is under treatment," Liberian Health Minister Walter Gwenigale said in a statement.

"The team is already investigating the situation, tracing contacts, collecting blood samples and sensitising local health authorities on the disease," he added.

Gwenigale did not specify the victims' nationalities, but Doctors Without Borders (MSF) said they were Liberian residents who had attended funerals in the Ebola-hit area of Guinea, which has strong "family ties" with northern Liberia.

The UN has warned that Guinea’s Ebola outbreak is threatening to spread to more neighbouring countries including Sierra Leone.

To date, no treatment or vaccine is available for the Ebola pathogen, which kills between 25 and 90 percent of those who fall sick, depending on the strain of the virus, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).

Uganda has suffered with a ring of disastrous disease outbreaks including Ebola in recent years. Ebola killed 17 people in Kibaale district and another four in Luweero in 2012 yet dozens had died in earlier outbreaks in Bundibugyo and Gulu districts.

While Guinea and its neighbours are not known tourist destinations for Ugandans, a number of people regularly travel between West Africa and Uganda for conferences and business. Dr. Aceng however explained that no travel ban had been issued so far.

The Ebola virus is transmitted by direct contact with the blood, body fluids and tissues of infected persons.

Transmission of the Ebola virus has also occurred by handling sick or dead infected wild animals (chimpanzees, gorillas, monkeys, forest antelope, fruit bats), according to the WHO. The predominant treatment is general supportive therapy.

Severe acute viral illness often characterized by the sudden onset of fever, intense weakness, muscle pain, headache and sore throat.

This is followed by vomiting, diarrhoea, rash, impaired kidney and liver function, and in some cases, both internal and external bleeding.

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