Terrified patients fled a hospital in the west of that country when news broke that the mysterious malady that killed at least 14 people in the region was Ebola.
One of the world’s most virulent illnesses, with no vaccine and no cure, viral Ebola causes haemorrhagic fever, an acute disease characterised by high fever and bleeding into the skin.
“On 29 July 2012,” the DFAT warning states, “the World Health Organisation (WHO) was informed of confirmed cases of Ebola haemorrhagic fever by the Ugandan Ministry of Health. At this time, the cases appear to be centred in Nyamarunda Sub County, Kibaale district, although cases have reportedly also been identified in Kampala. A number of people have reportedly died as a result of contracting the virus.
“Australians in Uganda are advised to avoid contact with people exhibiting the symptoms of the disease (rashes, red eyes, hiccups, internal and external bleeding, jaundice, severe weight loss, mental confusion) and dead animals (especially primates). To minimise the risk of contracting Ebola, avoid direct contact with bodily fluids, practice good hygiene (such as washing hands) and refrain from eating ‘bushmeat’.”
So-called ‘bushmeat’ can derive from monkeys, gazelles, hippopotamuses, buffaloes, anteaters, gorillas, crocodiles, antelopes, fruit bats and various species of rodent. Some of the species are endangered. Anyone eating them can be endangered as well.
There is no treatment or vaccine against Ebola, which is transmitted by close personal contact. Depending on the strain, it can kill up to 90% of those contracting the virus.
In 2000, at least 425 people were infected in Uganda and more than half of them died. The virus claimed at least 37 lives in a subsequent Ugandan outbreak in 2007.
The WHO describes Ebola as “a viral haemorrhagic fever and one of the most virulent diseases known to humankind”. It tends to break out in Africa, being first identified in 1976 in a western equatorial province of Sudan and a region of Zaire (now Democratic Republic of the Congo). Symptoms include sudden fever, muscle pain, intense weakness, headache and sore throat, followed by vomiting, diarrhoea, rashes, impaired kidney and liver function and bleeding.
Written by : Peter Needham