Strange disease kills 20 residents in Kyotera

Kalisizo Hospital in Kyotera District. PHOTO/FILE/AMBROSE MUSASIZI

What you need to know:

  • The disease, which has caused anxiety among the residents, was first reported in November last year.

Health teams in Kyotera District are investigating a strange disease that has allegedly claimed more than 20 lives at Kijonjo A and Kijonjo B villages in Kasasa Sub-county, Kyotera District since November last year. 

The latest victim is said to be Francis Mugema, a councillor of Kijonjo Parish, who died at the weekend.
However, Dr Edward Muwanga, the district health officer, dismissed the figure, adding that Mugema died after a short illness.

“The councillor first complained of a bump on his right hand which got swollen and spread to the chest and face. His body was oozing blood before he breathed his last,” he said.

The disease, which has caused anxiety among the residents, was first reported in November last year when an estimated 10 people died after experiencing signs and symptoms such as vomiting, diarrhoea, headache, and bleeding.

Mr Denis Muyunga, the chairperson of Kasasa Sub-county, said residents  have resorted to herbal treatment.
“Since no one has come out with a conclusive report on what could be the cause of death, residents have resorted to seeking assistance from traditional healers who have promised to heal them and prevent them from being infected,” he said.

A health team from Masaka Regional Hospital was disbursed to the area in November to investigate the cause of the deaths.

A December 6, 2021 report from Masaka regional epidemiologists headed by Dr Jane Frances Zalwango revealed that the samples of blood, stool, CSF and urine from one of the suspects, a 10-year-old patient, tested negative for  the diseases.

The Uganda Virus Research Institute also released preliminary results for the Viral Haemorrhagic Fevers on December 6. These included Ebola, Marburg, Crimean-Congo Haemorrhagic Fever) and Rift Valley Fever  that turned out negative on Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR). 

The Arbovirus laboratory planned to run a yellow fever test but the results are still pending , the report adds.
The health findings, however, stated that only seven people had succumbed to symptoms relating to the unusual disease.

Mr Muyunga said their biggest challenge is that residents have decided to boycott health services and instead opted for traditional healers.

“Once someone starts developing signs, the relatives hide her saying that once she is attended to by health workers, that is an automatic death. The health workers are, therefore, finding difficulty in tracing people who have developed the strange illnesses,” he said.

Deaths related to the strange illnesses

According to the December 6, 2021 report, the deaths were noted as follows.
 •A 42-year-old fisherman, developed an itchy bump on his left ear on August 3 that progressed into swelling of the entire face and upper limbs. He died two days later.
•A 14-year-old girl, who developed headache, abdominal pain and bleeding from the nose and mouth on September 19 died the next day .
•A woman developed diarrhoea and vomiting on November 23 and died  two days later.
•A 53-year-old cattle keeper, who developed a bump on his right fore-arm that led to swelling of the right arm and chest, with associated chest pain, and convulsions on November 19 died six days later.
•Others were a casual labourer, 53, who started feeling unwell during the burial arrangements of another victim, died on November 27.
•On the same day, a 26-year-old man died after attending two of his relatives’ burials.  He had developed bump and pain in his right little finger that progressively radiated to the arm and chest. 
He developed difficulty in breathing and swallowing. At his death, he oozed blood through his body openings.
•A 14-year-old student also died on November 29 after bleeding through the nose and mouth.

A 25-year-old casual labourer  and a 43-year-old cattle keeper who were taking care of their relatives who died, recovered from the strange disease.