Ebola outbreak in Uganda: is it likely to spread?
WHO takes action after 14 people die in western Uganda, and there are fears Ebola has spread to the capital
FOURTEEN people have died following the latest outbreak of the deadly Ebola virus in Uganda. The World Health Organisation is setting up an isolation ward in the western town of Kibaale, but the Ugandan president has warned the outbreak might already have spread to Kampala 200km away.
WHAT IS EBOLA?
Ebola is a virus which causes haemorrhagic fever. According to the WHO, symptoms include intense weakness, muscle pain, headache and sore throat.
This is often followed by vomiting, diarrhoea, rash, impaired kidney and liver function, and in some cases, both internal and external bleeding.
Depending on the virus type, 25-90 per cent of patients will die.
The disease was first discovered in western Sudan and Zaire (now the Democratic Republic of Congo) in 1976. Since then, 1,850 cases have been documented, with more than 1,200 deaths.
There have been numerous outbreaks of the disease in sub-Saharan Africa, including a previous flare-up in Uganda in 2000, Gabon in 2001, Republic of Congo in 2003 (pictured) and Democratic Republic of Congo in 2007.
The two main centres of the virus are the rainforests of Africa and the western Pacific. The 'reservoir species' - the animal from which outbreaks originate - is unknown, but research suggests that bats, which are unaffected by Ebola, might be involved.
HOW DO YOU CATCH EBOLA?
Ebola can be transmitted by contact with the blood, secretions or other body fluids of patients. People are also known to have caught the virus from contact with live and dead gorillas, chimpanzees, monkeys and duikers - a type of forest antelope.
Once you are infected, it can take between two and 21 days for symptoms to develop.
IS THERE A CURE FOR EBOLA?
No. Researchers are in the process of testing potential vaccines, but it will be several years before any is available for patients. Those infected in Uganda will be rehydrated and treated with antibiotics to minimise the risk of death through a secondary infection.
WHAT HAS HAPPENED IN UGANDA?
The WHO reports that there have been 20 cases since 6 July, 14 of whom have died. Nine of the dead were from the same household, while one was a medic who attended to patients. Two people remain in hospital.
WHAT ACTION IS BEING TAKEN?
The WHO, Medecins Sans Frontiere and the US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have set up an isolation ward in a hospital in Kibaale and are attempting to identify everyone who has been in contact with any of the victims.
IS EBOLA LIKELY TO SPREAD FROM UGANDA?
The current outbreak will hopefully be contained, although there are already reports that it has spread from Kibaale to the capital Kampala. A CDC spokesman told CNN: "These outbreaks have a tendency to stamp themselves out, if you will, if we can get in and... stop the chain of transmission."
Ugandan health minister Dr. Christine Ondoa said the strain of Ebola causing the current outbreak, Ebola-Sudan, was "mild" compared to other strains and lives can be saved with treatment.
However, there is a sense of panic in Uganda, where President Yoweri Museveni has warned people to avoid touching each other and not to bury any victims of the virus.
He said seven doctors and 13 health workers at Kampala's Mulago are in quarantine after "at least one or two cases" were taken there, the BBC reports.