Monday, July 30, 2012

Safety Briefing: Ebola Outbreak in Western Uganda

Those who follow the news from Uganda have likely been concerned by the reports of an outbreak of the viral hemorrhagic fever known as the Ebola virus which was first reported as resurgent in western Uganda about three weeks ago, but the outbreak was not confirmed until July 27th. (1,2) There have been about 20 cases and 14 confirmed deaths from this outbreak, most of these cases were from the same household in a village in the Kibaale district in Western Uganda, which is about 125 miles west of Kampala, a day's travel from the Uganda Village Project offices in Iganga District. Uganda has had three major outbreaks of Ebola virus in the past 12 years, the largest one in 2000 was associated with several hundred deaths. (1)

The Ebola virus is a dangerous infection that can cause symptoms of headache, vomiting, and fever, and the mortality rate for those infected by the virus is high. Because the early symptoms are quite similar to other common infections such as influenza and malaria, fear levels can be high during an outbreak. however, transmission of the virus is through direct contact with bodily fluids such as saliva or blood. Therefore, risk of transmission without close contact is low. (3)

There are no travel restrictions in effect for Uganda because of this outbreak, and we are not planning to modify any of the internship activities for Uganda Village Project based on the outbreak. Although a case has been reported in Kampala and several others are being watched there, these are patients who traveled from western Uganda to seek treatment at Mulago, the nation's largest public hospital. The infections did not occur in Kampala. Travel through Kampala for departure at the end of the internship program is not risky. The Ugandan government has encouraged people to limit contact such as handshakes, even though these are unlikely to spread the disease - Uganda Village Project also supports that stance as a good way to prevent transmission of many different types of infectious diseases.

Any friend of Uganda Village Project or the internship program is welcome to contact me at any time regarding the Ebola outbreak with any questions.

- Alison Hayward, MD
Executive Director
Uganda Village Project

1) BBC News: Museveni Warns of Ebola Threat. 30 July 2012.
2) Reuters: Ebola Outbreak Kills 13 in Uganda. 28 July 2012.
3) U.S. Embassy. Confirmed Case of Ebola Virus in Uganda. 28 July 2012.
For those interested in syndromic surveillance:
Searches for "ebola" on Google Insights in the past 30 days

No comments: