An Ebola outbreak has claimed the lives of 14 people in midwestern Uganda. Officials confirm speculation about a mysterious disease that has sent people fleeing from their homes in recent weeks.
Ugandan health officials and a World Health Organization representative told a news conference in Kampala on Saturday about the discovery of Ebola in the Kibaale district.
"Laboratory investigations done at the Uganda Virus Research Institute ... have confirmed that the strange disease reported in Kibaale is indeed Ebola hemorrhagic fever," the Ugandan government and WHO said.
Kibaale has been plagued recently by a mysterious illness that seemed to have come from nowhere. Initial laboratory tests were inconclusive, leaving officials there at a loss. As recently as Friday, officials were still denying the existence of Ebola.
But now officials know that the dead were victims of the highly infectious virus. They said the 14 dead were among 20 to have contracted the disease. Two of the infected have been isolated for examination by researchers.
The illness, a hemorrhagic fever, is highly infectious and kills its victims quickly. Symptoms are varied and can include fever, soreness, headache and weakness, followed by diarrhea and vomiting. Some patients suffer from red eyes, as well as internal and external bleeding.
There is currently no cure or vaccine for Ebola.
Preventing its spread
Memories of the 2000 outbreak that killed 224 in Uganada are still fresh. And in 2007, a small outbreak of Ebola claimed the lives of 37 people in a remote Ugandan district close to the Congolese border.
A national emergency taskforce has been set up to prevent the disease from spreading further, and Ugandans are being urged to remain calm.
Now that the illness has been confirmed to be Ebola, officials say they can concentrate on preventing it from spreading.
tm/rg (AP, AFP, Reuters)