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Fears grow over Ugandan Ebola outbreak

31st July 2012

Authorities in western Uganda are holding 11 patients in isolation following an outbreak of the deadly Ebola virus, health officials said.

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Fourteen people have died so far of the haemorrhagic fever, amid an outbreak which officials fear will be similar to one 12 years ago which infected 425 people, killing more than half of them.

A child was among the two most recent cases which have yet to be confirmed as Ebola, officials said.

Meanwhile, officials in neighbouring Kenya said the authorities had placed the country's laboratories on high alert and dispatched protective medical gear to its border provinces.

Anyone crossing the border into Kenya will be watched carefully for signs of the virus, and may be tested at airports and border crossings, according to Shikanga O-tipo, head of the integrated disease surveillance unit at Kenya’s Public Health Ministry.

The virus was first detected in Kibaale, 90 miles west of the capital, Kampala, on July 6, prompting additional alerts and protection measures in Rwanda, which shares a border with Uganda to the south.

The Rwandan health ministry said in a statement that no cases of Ebola had been reported in the country for 15 years, but said the government had put in place measures to protect the public from the disease.

The ministry warned Rwandans to remain vigilant and to report any suspected cases immediately, the statement said.

Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni advised people to avoid shaking hands, casual sex and do-it-yourself burials, as a way of limiting the spread of the virus.

According to Kibaale-based farmer Kiiza Xavier, local people were panicking in the wake of the news of the Ebola outbreak.

He said people were staying away from the district's usually popular bars and brothels for fear of catching the disease.

Ebola is transmitted by close contact and body fluids such as saliva, vomit, feces, sweat, semen and blood. There is currently no cure.

Fear of the virus had also spread to the capital, where Kibaale healthcare worker Clare Muhumuza died on Friday, with local residents avoiding shaking hands with anyone.

Kampala resident Ben Tumwebaze said he was scared of catching the virus and would do anything to avoid it.

But he said a refusal to shake hands with a friend could cause social embarrassment and misunderstanding.

Signs and symptoms of the disease include fever, vomiting, diarrhoea, abdominal pain, headache, measles-like rash, red eyes, sometimes with bleeding from body openings.


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