End of ebola epidemic in Bundibugyo, Uganda, is near

Swaibu is an ebola survivor. See more of his illness and his return to his family. An edited version of this video was used by authorities as a television broadcast to extend the information availbale to the public about the disease and possible survival.

No new cases of ebola hemorrhagic fever have been reported since December 23 in Bundibugyo district, in western Uganda. MSF teams, who have been providing care to ebola patients in the area since early December, have good reason to hope that this short, but acute, epidemic is coming to its end.

Latest figures show that 148 persons have caught the disease since the first cases were reported in early August. Of these, 37 have died over a period of a few weeks. Authorities officially declared the epidemic on November 28.

Ebola, as well as Marburg fever, are very contagious hemorrhagic fevers with no specific treatment. There are thought to be transmitted through the ingestion of bush meat - monkey meat, in the case of Ebola. These monkeys may have been infected themselves by a healthy carrier, probably a bat.

The MSF intervention, first focused on the isolation of the patients, as well as active research of sick people who had been in touch with confirmed cases, has been very efficient. Less than a month after the start of the intervention, it seems that the chains of transmission of the ebola virus have been broken.

On January 8, one of the two isolation units set up by the organization in Kykio is being and decontaminated and dismantled. Kikyo is a few kilometres away from Bundibugyo, the district main town, where the epidemic seems to have started.

Currently, only one patient remains under observation in the other isolation unit, set up in Bundibugyo's hospital. There is a strong possibility that this patient was not infected by ebola.

The MSF teams, composed of around 20 expatriates and 60 local staff, will progressively reduce their activities while continuing to transfer their know-how to national healthcare staff in order to increase the local capacity of diagnosing the disease and a quicker response and care to patients.

According to international recommendations, the end of the epidemic can only be declared after 42 days, a period time equal to twice the incubation period of the disease with no new cases declaring themselves from the day the last case had been isolated. However, after the first period of 21 days, the area may be considered as "ebola free".

This date, currently set to January 12, is much awaited by the local population of this mountainous region at the edge of the Ugandan Rwenzori region. Understandably, ebola is an extremely feared disease there. It might also be one of the factors that limited the spread of the virus.

Meanwhile, MSF staff is carrying on with their activities: counselling to the victims' families; training of medical staff; and epidemiological research in order to verify that the virus' transmission chains have indeed been broken.