New Vision, Friday 30th November 2007
Reported by Anne Mugisa, John Thawite, Matthias Mugisha & Bizimungu Kisakye
SIX more people have been confirmed infected with the deadly Ebola virus, health officials said yesterday. This puts the number of infected people at 58, sixteen of whom have died since the outbreak of the deadly disease in August.
The Commissioner for Health Services in the health ministry, Dr. Sam Okware, said the six new cases were admitted at Bundibugyo Hospital after they attended the burial of an Ebola victim. Another two suspected cases were yesterday reported in Fort Portal.
A 13-year-old school boy came from Kyenjojo district with the mother yesterday morning and was admitted to Virika hospital, according to the Kabarole district director of medical services, Dr. Joa Okech. The boy, who was only identified as Katusabe, was temporarily admitted to Virika, where he was resuscitated and transferred to Buhinga Hospital. At Virika, the outpatient room was turned into an emergency ward to accommodate the boy. When the New Vision visited the ward, the door to the room bore a warning: “Do not enter unprotected”.
The second patient, a woman, also reported to Virika late afternoon, but she was sent to Buhinga hospital, according Dr. Musa Walakira, who is handling the cases. The woman’s identity could not be readily established.
“She was vomiting blood when she went to Virika, so they suspected Ebola and sent her to Buhinga Government Referral Hospital where an isolation centre has been set up.Another suspected patient bled to death in Mbarara yesterday, Dr. Okware said.
He said ministry of health officials picked blood samples for testing. He said he had also instructed a quick burial of the body.
Meanwhile, the head of Nyahuka Health Centre 4 in Bundibugyo district, Dr. Richard Ssesanga Kaddu, his deputy Jonah Kule and two medical officers have been isolated after they complained that they felt unwell.
Okware, explained that Ssesanga was isolated at his home in Bundibugyo, while Kule who had traveled to Kampala, was put in the ministry’s isolation facility in the city.
He could not say whether Ssesanga, Kule, Kisughu, an enrolled nurse and Amon Kule, an ophthalmic officer, were infected with Ebola.
“We have taken specimen from them and it will be sometime before we can tell,” he said, before adding that the medical officers were improving steadily.
He lamented that there was a shortage of medical personnel in Bundibugyo, affecting the out-patients department most. “We need additional personnel to run the hospitals.”
Dr. Scot, a missionary, now heads the case management unit, while the two isolation units have each got seven personnel.
In Fort Portal, a district task force has been set up comprising the top district officials, medical personnel and some NGOs to handle the Ebola emergency.
In addition, two isolation centres have been set up, one at Buhinga in Fort-Portal town, the other at Bukuku, about 10km on Fort-Portal Bundibugyo road.
The RDC, Kakonge Kambarage, said they suspected that there could be more infected people who are still in the incubation period.
An official from the US Centre for Disease Control in Atlanta is set to collect samples from the patients in Fort-Portal today for testing.
The Minister of Defence, Dr. Crispus Kiyonga is also in Fort-Portal and Kasese to sensitise the population about the virus.
Kiyonga on Saturday asked local leaders to start public awareness campaigns.
“Once infected with Ebola, chances of survival are 50%,” the former health minister told sub-county and town council leaders at Virina Gardens in Kasese town.
He advised that Ebola victims be buried in fluid-proof bags soon after they die. He asked the public to look out for such symptoms as headache, high fever, a rash, red eyes, bleeding, diarrhoea and vomiting.
Participants expressed fear that the virus could be incubating in Kasese and Kabarole among people who have been going Bundibugyo to bury their relatives since the disease outbreak in August.
Meanwhile, the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) has given sh45m to Bundibugyo district to fight the disease, the chief administrative officer, Elias Byamungu, said on Saturday. Byamungu said other agencies, including Oxfam, had agreed to offer more support.
Uganda was last hit by an Ebola epidemic in 2000, when 425 people caught it and just over half of them died, including Dr. Mathew Lukwiya. An outbreak in neighbouring Congo this year infected up to 264 people, killing 187.
[REPORTS ON EBOLA ARE BLOGGED BECAUSE DSI.ORG WORKS IN FORT PORTAL, KABAROLE DISTRICT]