Ebola Outbreaks In Northern Uganda

Sunday, October 15th 2000, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

KAMPALA, Uganda (AP) — The highly contagious and deadly Ebola virus has emerged in northern Uganda, killing at least 31 people in the first recorded outbreak in three years, the Ministry of Health said in a statement.

The World Health Organization dispatched two experts to Gulu, 225 miles north of the capital, Kampala, on Saturday to investigate and advise local health authorities on how to contain the hemorrhagic fever, which kills up to 90 percent of its victims, a WHO spokesman said Saturday.

``Three of the dead were student nurses who treated the first Ebola patients admitted to Lacor Hospital in Gulu town,'' the statement was quoted as saying by the government-run Sunday Vision newspaper.

The statement went on to say that field officials in Gulu said that at least seven people came down with the disease Saturday, bringing the number of people afflicted in the last two weeks to 51. Not all those afflicted have died.

Uganda has never recorded an outbreak of Ebola before, but there have been cases of the closely related Marburg virus. Ebola was named after a river in Congo, where it was first recorded in a number of villages in 1976.

The virus is spread through contact with bodily fluids and there is no known cure. The virus takes between four and 14 days to kill its victims and causes massive internal bleeding, vomiting and diarrhea, all of which spreads the virus. Death usually comes when the victim ``bleeds out'' through the eyes, nose, ears and other bodily orifices.

The last recorded Ebola outbreak was in Gabon in February 1997, which killed 10 people. The last major outbreak struck Kikwit, Congo in 1995, killing 245. Researchers do not know where the virus comes from, but when it flares up, it kills humans so fast that outbreaks usually only last a few weeks.

The government-owned New Vision newspaper reported Saturday that the authorities are investigating a recent death from the mysterious disease of a Congolese woman married to a Ugandan soldier. Ugandan troops, who have been supporting rebels in neighboring Congo, have recently returned to Gulu and brought with them Congolese wives.