Mystery disease kills 30 Ugandans
The outbreak centres on the northern town of Gulu
13 October 2000
From the BBC Friday, 13 October, 2000 The outbreak centres on the northern town of Gulu A mystery disease has killed at least 30 people in the northern Ugandan district of Gulu. The highly contagious disease causes its victims to bleed to death, and medical officials say it could be a form of viral haemorrhagic fever of which Marburg and Ebola are the best known examples. Efforts to tackle the outbreak have been hampered by the lack of adequate medical facilities, and the effects of a rebel activity in the region. The government and the World Health Organisation have sent fact finding missions to Gulu to investigate the outbreak, but so far have given little practical help. Samples have been sent to South Africa for analysis and results should be released next week. Symptoms of the mystery illness include fever, muscle pains and bleeding from the mouth, nose and anus. Family members die Among the first victims was reported to be a soldier who had recently served in the Democratic Republic of Congo, and died on 17 September. Days later, a woman bled to death after giving birth in a Gulu hospital. During the following weeks, seven of her family and friends who attended her burial service were also dead. Doctors believe they could have contracted the disease after washing their hands in the same water at her funeral. So far 10 people have died in hospital, including three nurses treating the sick. Inadequate facilities The other victims have succumbed in their villages before they could get to medical help. The region's hospital lacks even adequate protective clothing for staff who are attending to the victims of the disease. The situation is made worse by the fact that Gulu is at the heart of a 12-year insurgency by rebels based in neighbouring Sudan.