Uganda’s president, Yoweri Museveni Monday warned against physical contact after a victim of a deadly outbreak of the Ebola virus was reported in the capital Kampala for the first time. “The Ministry of Health are tracing all the people who have had contact with the victims,” Yoweri Museveni said in a state broadcast, adding that 14 people had died in total since Ebola broke out in western Uganda three weeks ago.
Two cases have since been reported in the capital, with one victim reported dead in Kampala’s Mulago Hospital, he said, calling on people not to shake hands to avoid the spread of the killer virus. “Ebola spreads by contact when you contact each other physically, avoid shaking of hands, because that can cause contact through sweat, which can cause problems,” Museveni said.
“Do not take on burying somebody who has died from symptoms that look like Ebola — instead call health workers because they know how to do it, avoid promiscuity because this sickness can also go through sex,” he added. Seven doctors and 13 health workers at Mulago hospital are in quarantine after “at least one or two cases” were taken there, with one later dying from the virus.
According to experts, despite being extremely virulent, the disease is containable because it kills its victims faster than it can spread to new ones. It has a fatality ratio of between 23% – 90%, according to the World Health Organisation (WHO).
The latest outbreak started in Uganda’s western Kibale district, around 200 kilometres (125 miles) west of the Kampala, and around 50 kilometres from the border with Democratic Republic of Congo. The nearest death previously had been in May 2011 in Bombo, some 35 kilometres (21 miles) from Kampala, a city of some 1.5 million people.
“The bleeding which normally accompanies Ebola did not take place initially among these patients,” he said, adding that health workers at first did not therefore realise what the problem was. “Because of that delay the sickness spread.” Ebola is characterised by the sudden onset of fever, intense weakness, muscle pain, headache and sore throat, often followed by vomiting, diarrhoea and in some cases, both internal and external bleeding, according to the WHO.