By Fred Ouma
and Bizimungu Kisakye in Kamwenge
RESIDENTS neighbouring Kitaka mine in Kamwenge district where the deadly Marburg haemorrhagic fever was confirmed, should restrict their movements, the Ministry of Health has advised.
The Police have been deployed in the area to block outsiders from accessing the mine where two cases were recorded, of whom one died.
The galena ore mine, located some 420km from Kampala and 47km from Kamwenge town, has been closed temporarily.
Dr. Sam Okware, the head of national task force for haemorrhagic viruses, said sealing off the mine would allow the virus to complete its cycle and the epidemic to be declared over.
â€œNo new cases have been reported. We, however, advise residents of the communities surrounding the mine to stay where they are for at least 21 days,â€ Okware told The New Vision yesterday.
The rare but highly fatal disease, caused by a virus related to the one that causes Ebola, is transmitted through contact with blood or other body fluids of infected people and can cause bleeding from multiple orifices.
The disease is also said to be spread by bats and rats. Charles Mkundane, the mine manager, said there were over 10 million bats in clusters found in the tunnels. He asked the Government to exterminate them.
â€œThese bats have got ticks that could have bitten the workers,â€ said Mkundane.
The confirmed case was a 29-year-old Ugandan miner who died on July 13 after accompanying another sick miner in an ambulance from Ntara health centre to the hospital. He was reportedly bitten by a tick. His laboratory results were only received this week because the sample was tested in the US.
The sick miner, 21, was discharged from hospital after recovering. Tests have not yet confirmed if he had been infected with Marburg fever but it was strongly suspected, said Dr. Okware.
The Ministry of Health has set up a national emergency plan to halt the spread of the deadly virus and to deal with any suspected cases.
The plan involves strengthening the laboratory at the Uganda Virus Institute, increasing surveillance on contact cases, case management and sensitising the general public about the disease.
â€œWeâ€™re looking at all options. Already there is a mobile van in Kamwenge telling the residents to be alert and report any suspicious cases of severe fever and unexplained bleeding,â€ Okware said.
By yesterday evening, the health ministry was still tracing contacts of sick people for possible isolation and close monitoring.