The Ministry of Health has confirmed that the deadly Ebola virus has killed 14 people in western Uganda. The announcement came after weeks of speculation about the cause of a mystery disease in Kibaale District.
According the Ministry of Health, initial blood samples collected from the patients did not show positive results until other blood samples were picked on Thursday. The preliminary results of collected blood samples show symptoms of Ebola outbreak with high viral infection.
This is not the first Ebola outbreak in Uganda. We would, therefore, expect the level of vigilance from the health experts, particularly the line ministry, to be much better. Given our past experiences with ‘mysterious diseases’, some turning out to be Ebola, we ought to carry out immediate precautionary measures whenever such reports arise.
The major symptoms of Ebola are known and the slightest suspicion should be a matter of concern and urgent investigation into the mystery behind the disease must be carried out. The Ebola outbreak in Gulu in 2000 claimed more than 200 lives, including health workers, because it was the first recorded major outbreak and health workers were learning how to cope and contain the disease.
The primary mode of person-to-person transmission being contact with contaminated blood, secretions or body fluids, the relatives and health workers who have had physical contact with the patients could be at risk. Tracking and keeping all of them under strict surveillance may be difficult because the disease has been claiming lives for some time.
It is, however, important that all health workers and relatives of patients who have come into close contact with patients are, as much as possible, traced and together with other suspected cases isolated and monitored to avoid further spread.
The Ebola virus is highly contagious. To control spread, the Ministry of Health should ensure that the affected communities are equipped with necessary information about the nature of the disease, prevention and management as well as handling of the deceased. Awareness is especially crucial for rural communities where information about prevention is inadequate.
In addition, health facilities should be availed with the necessary supplies for effective management of possible cases.