Ebola

Uganda’s neighbours move to stem Ebola threat.

By David Fox

NAIROBI, Oct 16 (Reuters) – Uganda’s neighbours have moved swiftly to try to stem the spread of the deadly Ebola virus which has killed at least 33 people in the east African country in the past two weeks.

Kenyan health authorities have sent a medical team to Busia, the main border crossing point between Uganda and Kenya, to try to identify and isolate suspected Ebola cases.

Authorities in Rwanda and Tanzania have also stepped up health checks, officials from those countries said.

At least 63 people in northern Uganda in the past two weeks have contracted a viral haemorrhagic fever that has now been identified by health authorities as Ebola. More than half have already died.

Ebola is deadly in most cases, causing massive internal haemorrhaging that results in bleeding through the eyes, ears, nose and other orifices.

It is named after a river in the Democratic Republic of the Congo where it was first recognised in 1976 when an epidemic killed more than 270 people. It has no vaccine or cure.

Kenyan health authorities confirmed on Monday that a team of public health officers had been sent to Busia to try identify possible Ebola carriers.

“We cannot test for the disease since we do not have the necessary equipment,” Busia acting district medical officer Dr Walter Kayaywa told the Nation newspaper.

Their task will be made all the more difficult by that fact that hundreds of people cross the border at Busia every day while suffering from other endemic illnesses such as malaria and AIDS-related diseases which show similar early symptoms.

Uganda’s Director-general for health services Francis Omaswa said on Sunday that the number of Ebola cases reported so far totalled 63 and that 33 people had died.

“A national task force has been convened to intensify efforts to control the outbreak,” he said in Kampala.

Teams of health workers have been dispatched to Gulu, northern Uganda – the centre of the outbreak – to show the local population how to identify further cases and to advise on how such cases should be handled.

Health Minister Crispus Kiyonga said laboratory tests had also confirmed that the outbreak in Gulu district was caused by the Ebola virus.

The Ugandan government and the World Health Organisation flew extra medical supplies to Gulu on Friday with an epidemiological surveillance team to improve barrier nursing, set up isolation wards and start an information campaign.

Ten of the deaths occurred in an Italian-backed Mission hospital, but the others were in villages around Gulu.

In the past three months, hundreds of Ugandan soldiers returning from war in the Democratic Republic of the Congo have passed through Gulu, causing speculation in the local media that they may have brought the virus with them.

Army spokesman Phinehas Katirima, however, said no soldiers had the virus.

Since 1976, Ebola virus outbreaks have been reported from Gabon, Sudan and the Ivory Coast, with individual cases of infection reported in Britain, where a laboratory worker was infected by a contaminated needle in 1976, and in Liberia.

The most recent reported outbreak was in 1996 in Gabon, when 60 people were infected. About 75 percent of them died.

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Ebola “like watching someone dissolve”.

By David Fox

NAIROBI, Oct 16 (Reuters) – At first you feel a dull aching in your joints and a slight tightening of the chest and sinuses. It could be a cold, or even a touch of the flu.

Within hours, you will start to sweat and experience feverish shifts in temperature. Perhaps it wasn’t flu after all, but malaria picked up on that African holiday.

Within days you are likely to be in tooth-grinding agony. It is painful to open your eyes and your head feels as if it is about to explode. Bafflingly, doctors still have no idea what is wrong with you.

Only once you start bleeding from every orifice – including your eyes and ears – might they suspect you have the Ebola virus. By then it will almost certainly be too late.

“It is a really nasty disease. It is like watching someone dissolve before your eyes,” said Barbera Kerstiens, a Belgian doctor who worked on Ebola during an outbreak in the Congo two years ago.

Ugandan and United Nations health authorities on Monday confirmed that the deadly disease which has killed at least 33 people in northern Uganda in the last two weeks is the Ebola virus, one of the most terrifying infections known to mankind.

You cannot be vaccinated against it and there is no cure. Doctors can merely try treat the problems that the virus is causing. But with even the best medical treatment available, the survival rate is less than three patients in 10.

Not only is it highly contagious, it is also super-fast and can kill within 48 hours..

Finally, it is a horrific way to die – your blood literally pouring out of veins and arteries into your body and out through your eyes, ears and mouth.

Ebola was named after a river in the Democratic Republic of the Congo where it was first recognised in 1976 when an epidemic killed more than 270 people.

Since then, Ebola outbreaks have been reported from Gabon, Sudan and the Ivory Coast, with individual cases of infection reported in Britain, where a laboratory worker was infected by a contaminated needle in 1976, and in Liberia.

The most recent reported outbreak was in 1996 in Gabon, when 60 people were infected. About 75 percent of them died.

The virus has also been the basis for at least three Hollywood blockbuster movies, usually involving scores of extras dressed head to toe in sinister biological contamination clothing, an evil tyrant who threatens to expose the world to the virus and a hero doctor in a race against time for a cure.

The exact origin of the Ebola virus remains unknown, medical experts say.

It has some characteristics similar to the HIV virus that leads to AIDS and some scientists also believe it may have made a species leap from animal to human at some stage.

But they do know how deadly it is.


“There are only a few facilities in the world secure enough to test and do research on Ebola,” Kerstiens said. “Fortunately most outbreaks have been in remote areas and have been contained.”

You'll be ok ... it isn't that catchy!

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About FoxFromZim

I am a journalist from Zimbabwe, currently based in Singapore. I report chiefly on international affairs, specialising in politics, war and natural disasters when not playing golf badly.
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