Ebola deaths in Uganda climb to four

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Kampala (AFP) – A total of four people have died from the highly contagious Ebola virus in Uganda, where authorities declared an outbreak earlier this week, health officials said on Friday.

“Three new deaths were recorded,” the health ministry said in a statement, raising the number of deaths from one to four after reporting the country’s first death from the virus since 2019 on Tuesday.

The total number of confirmed cases now stands at 11 after four more infections were confirmed in the past 24 hours, officials said.

It wasn’t immediately clear if the 11 cases included the four deaths.

Nineteen other Ebola suspects are being treated at a hospital, the ministry added.

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“The Ministry of Health’s rapid response teams remain on site to list and follow up contacts with the confirmed cases,” it said, calling for increased vigilance.

Authorities on Tuesday declared an outbreak in central Mubende district and announced the death of a 24-year-old man.

Travel restrictions for non-essential work and a ban on large public gatherings have been imposed in Mubende, Health Ministry spokeswoman Emma Ainebyoona told AFP on Friday.

The first victim had tested positive for the relatively rare Sudan strain of the virus.

According to the WHO, there have previously been seven outbreaks of the Sudan strain, including four in Uganda and three in Sudan.

Uganda, which shares a porous border with the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), has experienced multiple Ebola outbreaks, most recently in 2019 when at least five people died.

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The Democratic Republic of Congo recorded a new case in its violence-stricken east last month, less than six weeks after an epidemic in the country’s northwest was declared over.

Difficult to contain

Ebola is an often fatal viral hemorrhagic fever. The mortality rate is usually high, up to 90 percent in some outbreaks, according to the World Health Organization.

The virus, whose natural host is the bat, was first identified in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (then Zaire) in 1976 and has since caused a series of epidemics in Africa, killing about 15,000 people.

Transmission to humans occurs through bodily fluids, with fever, vomiting, bleeding and diarrhea being the main symptoms.

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Outbreaks are difficult to contain, especially in urban settings.

Infected people only become contagious when symptoms appear, i.e. after an incubation period of between two and 21 days.

There is currently no approved drug to prevent or treat Ebola, although a number of experimental drugs are in development and thousands have been vaccinated in the DRC and some neighboring countries.

The worst epidemic in West Africa between 2013 and 2016 alone killed more than 11,300 people. The Democratic Republic of the Congo has had more than a dozen epidemics, the deadliest of which killed 2,280 people in 2020.

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