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In recent weeks, people in Kibaale, a western district of Uganda, have been troubled by a disease that has taken the lives of 14 out of the 20 reported cases and has many others leaving their homes in fear. Until now, the results of the tests have been inconclusive, with on-site analysts unable to identify the problem. It is confirmed that the deadly outbreak is the dreaded Ebola Virus.
World Health Organization (WHO) representative Joaquim Saweka told the Associated Press that “investigators were “not-so-sure” it was Ebola, and a Ugandan health official dismissed the possibility of Ebola as merely a rumor.” All of the evidence now points to this disease.
Common signs and symptoms of the disease are flu-like symptoms, including fever, nausea and vomiting, and a sore throat. This progresses to central nervous system problems like confusion, agitation, seizures, headaches, and occasionally a coma. A rare symptom (fewer than 10 percent of cases) is hemorrhaging of sites like the nose, gastrointestinal tract, or vagina, which gives Ebola the name Ebola Hemorrhagic Fever (EHF). It infects and kills the victim quickly.
The cause is still unknown, but some suspect the infection begins through contact with an infected animal. It is transferred between people through contact with infected secretions of the individual, such as blood or mucous. Relatives of a person who died from Ebola have often contracted the virus at bereaving ceremonies or coming into contact with the person’s belongings.
While there is no cure or vaccine for Ebola, officials are working now to isolate the individuals with it to stop the disease from spreading too far. Patients are being treated at the only major hospital in Kibaale. Stephen Byaruhanga, the districts health secretary, said “Being a strange disease, we were shocked to learn that it was Ebola. Our only hope is that in the past when Ebola broke out in other parts of Uganda it was controlled.”
The last outbreak, in 2000, left 224 dead in Uganda. Another outbreak left 37 dead in Bunibugyo, a district on the edge of the Congolese border. Officials in Kibaale hope to stop this strain before it reaches that point.
The only problem with their current isolation plan that Byaruhanga voices is that other people with diseases will not want to come to the hospital in fear of catching Ebola. Doctors and nurses on site are being asked to risk their lives in order to treat these patients. All remain hopeful that the virus will not spread.
Image Courtesy of amref_france