Six more patients suspected to have Ebola have been admitted to the hospital, said a health official on Monday. This is after investigators confirmed an outbreak of the highly infectious disease in a remote corner of western Uganda.
Stephen Byaruhanga, health secretary of the affected Kibaale district, said possible cases of Ebola, at first concentrated in a single village, are now being reported in more villages.
In a national address on Monday, Uganda’s president advised against unnecessary contact among people and added that suspected cases of Ebola should be reported immediately to health officials.
Officials from Uganda’s Ministry of Health and the World Health Organization announced on Saturday that the deadly Ebola virus killed 14 Ugandans this month, ending weeks of speculation about the cause of a strange illness.
If the six new cases are confirmed as Ebola, it would bring to 26 the number of Ugandans infected with Ebola.
This is the fourth occurrence of Ebola in Uganda since 2000, when the disease killed 224 people. At least 42 people were killed in another outbreak in 2007, and there was a lone Ebola case in 2011. Investigators took nearly a month to confirm Ebola’s presence in Uganda this year.
In Kibaale, a district with 600,000 residents, some villagers started abandoning their homes to escape what they thought was an illness caused by bad luck. One family lost nine members, and a clinical officer and her 4-month-old baby died from Ebola, Byaruhanga said.
All suspected Ebola patients have been isolated at one hospital where patients admitted with other illnesses fled after Ebola was announced. Only the hospital’s maternity ward still has patients, officials said.
Ebola, which manifests itself as a hemorrhagic fever, is highly infectious and kills quickly. A CDC factsheet on Ebola says the disease is “characterized by fever, headache, joint and muscle aches, sore throat, and weakness, followed by diarrhoea, vomiting, and stomach pain. A rash, red eyes, hiccups and internal and external bleeding may be seen in some patients.”
Scientists don’t know the natural reservoir of the virus, but they suspect the first victim in an Ebola outbreak gets infected through contact with an infected animal.
The virus can be transmitted through direct contact with the blood or secretions of an infected person, or objects that have been contaminated with infected secretions.