Ebola outbreak: The worst thought to be over
The ebola epidemic in Uganda seems to have passed its peak, with the number of new cases decreasing. So far 94 people have died and another 286 are thought to have become infected with the virus, according to the MSF team in Gulu. The epidemic, which started in mid-October, seems to be limited to Gulu in the north of Uganda, although a new case of ebola has been confirmed in the south of Uganda, in Mbarara district. The possibility of a link with the Gulu outbreak is being examined. In the meantime, the cause of the epidemic in Gulu itself remains unknown.
Other suspected cases in the country are being examined. It is still possible for the disease to spread further via people travelling from Gulu to other regions. The two most known variants of ebola, are the Zairean variant and the less virulent Sudanese variant, which has afflicted Gulu. Scattered reports from outside Gulu District have continued to surface. However, except for the confirmed cases at Mbarara, none of the recent blood samples coming from other districts have tested positive for Ebola antigen/antibody. Surveillance will continue for a period of three months after the declared end of the epidemic. As for those who have survived having Ebola, stigmatisation of patients being discharged and returning to their communities remains a major issue. The social mobilization team is taking appropriate action.
ICRC/Ugandan Red Cross are training volunteers who will follow survivors into the community and assist in their reintegration. A "patient discharge kit" will be composed with one blanket, one cooking pot, one set of clothes, four bars of soap and one kg salt. The MSF team in Gulu is now working on tracing cases of the disease, isolating and treating infected patients, and training healthcare workers in the prevention of infection. Suspected cases of ebola are being carefully examined and the teams are watching close relatives. At the same time team members are investigating incidents of death that might be linked to ebola. The team is collaborating closely with the Ugandan Ministry of Health and other international organisations.
The city of Gulu has a population of 90,000, while in the surrounding district there are more than 100,000 displaced persons who have fled from the rebel Lord's Resistance Army. The ebola epidemic in the Congolese town of Kikwit in 1998 affected 318 people; 80 percent of whom consequently died. This virus was of the Zairean type.