NYANSWIGA, UGANDA (BNO NEWS) -- A severe outbreak of Ebola has killed at least fourteen people in midwestern Uganda this month, health officials said on Sunday, confirming the deadly virus is responsible for the deaths. Six other people are also known to have been infected.
Laboratory investigations at the Uganda Virus Research Institute in Entebbe have confirmed that a disease outbreak in Kibaale district is Ebola Hemorrhagic Fever, said Dr. Denis Lwamafa, the Commissioner of National Disease Control at the Ugandan Ministry of Health. He said twenty cases have been recorded so far this month.
The majority of the cases have been recorded in Nyanswiga, a village in Nyamarunda sub-county in Kibaale district, where nine members of a family died as a result of Ebola. "Three samples taken from the dead have confirmed Ebola to be present in their biological specimen," Lwamafa said.
A 30-year-old woman from the same household was hospitalized on Monday with fever, vomiting, diarrhea, and abdominal pains. "She is from the household that recorded the index case and nine deaths due to the strange illness. She is stable but still has fever with diarrhea and vomiting," the national disease control commissioner said.
A clinical officer who attended one of the family's victims also became infected and died soon after, but not before passing on the disease to her four-month-old baby, who died on Friday after being admitted to a hospital last Monday. The clinical officer's 38-year-old sister has also been infected and was admitted to hospital on Thursday but remains in a stable condition.
Health officials have said the Ebola outbreak is believed to be responsible for at least fourteen deaths and six other cases, but no details have been released about the other victims. Authorities are still working to determine who may have been in contact with the twenty suspected and confirmed cases, of which the first became infected around July 6.
"A national task force coordinated by the Ministry of Health has been activated. Kibaale and neighboring districts have [also] been instructed to activate their district task forces to coordinate the management of the outbreak," Lwamafa said. "A response team and plan have been put in place at the national and district level to respond to the outbreak. A team of experts from MoH (Ministry of Health), WHO (World Health Organization) and CDC (U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) is already on the ground in Kibaale supporting the response."
As a precaution, the regional Kagadi Hospital has established a special ward for suspected Ebola cases. Doctors Without Borders (MSF) has also mobilized the necessary requirements to set up isolation centers at hospitals in the region, should additional patients show up, and extra staff has been mobilized. Both the WHO and the CDC have further dispatched Personal Protective Equipment (PPEs) and a supply of body bags to the district, with 2,000 additional body bags expected to arrive soon.
"Mulago National Referral Hospital is to reactive its isolation camp to in readiness for any possible cases detected in the surrounding areas at the hospital," Lwamafa said, in a sign that health authorities are acting fast as a precaution to prevent the deadly virus from causing more victims.
He added: "The Ministry of Health calls upon the public to stay calm as all possible measures are being undertaken to control the situation. The country will be kept informed further on the outcome of the health emergency."
Ebola is a highly infectious disease and kills its victims in a very short time, but the virus can easily be confused with many other diseases. The signs and symptoms include high grade fever, vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal pain, headache, measles-like rash, red eyes, and in some cases bleeding from body openings.
The virus, for which there is no cure or vaccine, can spread through direct contact with body fluids such as saliva, blood, stool, vomit, urine and sweat, but also through soiled linen used by an infected person. It can also spread by using skin piercing instruments previously used by an infected person or by touching the dead body of a person who died of Ebola.
The last known case of Ebola was reported in May 2011 when a 12-year-old girl died in a town near the Ugandan capital of Kampala. Despite initial fears of an epidemic, and the Kenyan Ministry of Health issuing an alert to people living near the Ugandan border, no other cases were recorded.
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