Uganda confirms 7 Ebola cases, race to stop outbreak

KAMPALA, Uganda (AP) – Uganda confirmed seven Ebola infections Thursday as authorities try to trace 43 contacts of known Ebola patients, two days after authorities in the East African country announced an outbreak of the contagious disease.

A total of eight deaths, including one confirmed, are “attributable to the virus,” said Dr. Henry Kyobe, a Ugandan military officer tracking Ebola cases. He spoke of a “rapidly evolving” situation where “we think cases may increase in a few days.”

The epicenter of the outbreak is the central Ugandan district of Mubende, whose main town lies along a highway into the capital, Kampala. That travel link and several overcrowded artisanal gold mines are worrisome, Kyobe told the World Health Organization.

Ugandan authorities have not yet identified the source of the outbreak, nor have they detected the key first case. But they were able to confirm a Sudan-type Ebola outbreak earlier this week after testing a sample from a 24-year-old man who had initially been treated for other illnesses, including malaria and pneumonia, when he sought care in his hometown. Six others in the same area, including three children, died earlier in September after suffering what local officials called a strange illness.

There is no proven vaccine against the Sudan strain of Ebola, and “it is very critical at this time that we treat this outbreak as serious because we may not have the advantage that we have gained in terms of advances in medical countermeasures,” said Dr. Patrick Otim, an epidemiologist with WHO in Africa.

Ebola, which is spread by contact with bodily fluids of an infected person or contaminated materials, manifests as a fatal hemorrhagic fever. Symptoms include fever, vomiting, diarrhea, muscle pain, and sometimes internal and external bleeding.

Scientists do not know the natural reservoir of the virus, but they suspect that the first victim in an Ebola outbreak becomes infected through contact with an infected animal.

Uganda has had several Ebola outbreaks, including one in 2000 that killed more than 200 people.

Last month, Congolese authorities said a new case of Ebola in the eastern city of Beni was linked to an earlier outbreak.

Congo’s 10th outbreak of Ebola in North Kivu and Ituri provinces killed more than 2,000 people from 2018 to 2020. During that time, neighboring Uganda reported some cases that authorities said were linked to the outbreak in Congo.

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