By Felix Basiime, Francis Mugerwa Alfred Tumushabe & Agatha Ayebazibwe (email the author) Posted Wednesday, August 1 2012 at 01:00-KAMPALA/KIBAALE. -The number of people infected with Ebola haemorrhagic fever in Kibaale rose from 7 to 19 yesterday
although no new deaths had been reported by press time, according to the Ministry of Health. In Mbarara, Dr George Upenytho, the executive director of the regional referralHospital, said they were handling a suspected case of Ebola whose blood samples had been sent to Kampala awaiting confirmation.
In Ntungamo, the district health officer, Mr Bernard Bamuturaki, said they were treating five deaths in the area with suspicion but could not confirm that they were as a result of Ebola.
The 12 new cases confirmed yesterday were all admitted to an isolation ward at Kagadi Hospital as health workers tried to contain the outbreak of the deadly disease. Dr Dan Kyamanywa, the Kibaale District health officer, said those newly admitted to hospital are from Burora, Bwikara, Kyaterekera, and Muhurro sub-counties as well as Kagadi Town Council. “They are in an isolation ward at Kagadi Hospital,” Dr Kyamanywa said. “They have received treatment and we can see some progress.”
The new cases reported yesterday raise the cumulative total of those infected to 33, including 14 who have died since the outbreak of the disease three weeks ago. Only three of the dead, however, were confirmed to have died of the disease.
If the cases in Mbarara and Ntungamo are confirmed, it would raise the death toll, the number of those infected, and the geographical extent of the outbreak which has so far been limited to Kibaale and a patient who was transported to Mulago Hospital in Kampala where they died.
In a related development, another health worker at Muhorro Health Centre III, Ms Margret Asaba, has been confirmed to have contracted the disease and is under treatment at Kagadi Hospital. Health officials have urged the public to minimise physical contact and report cases of people with Ebola-like symptoms. In a statement issued on Sunday, the World Health Organisation said the matter was under control and advised governments not to issue travel advisories against Uganda.
The health ministry yesterday said 16 samples had been collected from people suspected of having the disease for analysis while surveillance continues. “The Ministry of Health surveillance team in Kibaale District is actively and closely following up to 40 people who are suspected to have got into contact with the dead,” the statement issued by Dr. Dennis Lwamafa said. “These contacts have not shown any signs of the disease but will be monitored for 21 days. After 21 days, they will be declared Ebola-free.”
Fear factor Meanwhile, the admission of patients suspected to be infected with the Ebola hemorrhagic fever to Kagadi Hospital has forced other patients to flee from the facility. Reports from Kibaale indicate that the hospital has, since the Ebola outbreak, not received any patients with non-related ailments.
Mr Steven Byarugaba, the chairperson of the district Ebola taskforce, said patients admitted to the hospital when an isolation ward was set up to accommodate those suspected of suffering from Ebola have since abandoned the hospital.
People in neighbouring areas have also fled. “Several families including mine have been relocated to other sub-counties,” said Mr Robert Kyamanywa, who heads an NGO in Nyamarunda Sub-county, where Ebola was first confirmed last week.
The outbreak of the disease has also forced the closure of more than 200 schools in the district ahead of the official closing date, Friday. “After consultation with district leaders and relevant medical officials, we have closed schools in the counties of Buyaga East, Buyaga West and Buyanja,” the district education officer John Kyaboona told Daily Monitor on Monday. He said the closure is a precautionary measure to prevent a possibility of massive infections given the fact that Ebola is highly infectious.