Borders on high alert after Ebola outbreak is confirmed

Monday May 16 2011

By Evelyn Lirri & Dan Wandera

Districts neighbouring key border points have been put on high alert after health officials warned of a possible spread of the Ebola haemorrhagic fever.

The outbreak of the deadly disease, which has killed one person so far, was announced by the Ministry of Health on Saturday. “We have already alerted the people at the border points to put in place safety measures and to report any suspected cases to the nearest health facility,” Dr Anthony Mbonye, the head of the Ebola task force, said.
This follows the death, on May 6 of a 12-year-old girl from a type of Ebola believed to be common in neighbouring Sudan.

Strains
The World Health Organisation says there are at least five types of Ebola—Zaire, Sudan, Cote d’ Ivoire, Bundibugyo and Reston.The disease has no known cure.

In this particular type known as Sudan Ebola, Dr Mbonye said 50 to 60 per cent of clinically-ill patients end up dying.He explained that with massive movement of people across borders every day, the potential for infected persons to spread the virus is very high. This is because the Ebola virus is spread by direct contact with the blood, secretions, organs or other body fluids of infected persons.

So far there are no new cases of the disease reported but the Ministry of Health is closely monitoring some 33 people who are believed to have had direct contact with the girl who died including medical workers at Bombo Military Hospital where she died.

“We are observing and monitoring these 33 people for at least 21 days to see if they show signs and symptoms of the fever,” Dr Mbonye said.
Health officials have also issued precautionary measures including avoiding direct contact with body fluids of infected persons, using protective gears to handle infected cases and avoiding feasting on dead monkeys.

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In Luweero District—some 60kms from Kampala city where the latest case of the disease was confirmed—the reaction has been mixed—with some residents of Zirobwe Sub-county where the girl died, claiming ignorance about the outbreak.

Mr Abdon Mugerwa, the area LC3 chairman, told Daily Monitor that the health officials have not come out clearly to inform the public about what happened and try to find ways of isolating people who might be suspected to have had contact with the deceased girl.

Uganda is not new to epidemics. It has twice been hit by Ebola with major outbreaks in 2000 and 2007.

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