At least 16 people have died in an Ebola outbreak that began in Western Uganda last month. About three dozen suspected cases have been reported, World Health Organization spokesperson Tariq Jasarevic told CNN on Tuesday.
The virus is highly contagious, currently incurable, and can spread through direct contact with blood, sweat and other body fluids of infected persons. Symptoms can include headache, abdominal pain, fever, vomiting, diarrhea, red eyes, a measles-like rash and sometimes bleeding from body openings.
President Yoweri Museveni advised the public to “be vigilant,” urging people to avoid handshakes and even more intimate acts.
“Do not take on burying someone who has died from symptoms,” warned Museveni. “And avoid promiscuity because this virus can also go through sex.”
Growing fear has spread throughout the area, where taxi motorbike drivers have been turning down potential passengers and rumors of a public transportation ban have circulated.
Uganda’s ministry of health, the U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention and the WHO have provided the area with workers, CNN reports:
Teams in Uganda are taking an aggressive approach, including trying to track down anyone who came into contact with patients infected with the virus and health workers have been gearing up for better protection of health workers and an influx of cases.
The workers include people from Uganda's ministry of health, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the WHO.
An emergency team of 100 volunteers underwent training this week to help spread the word in vulnerable communities about the disease and its transmission, the Uganda Red Cross Society said. Medecins Sans Frontieres, also known as Doctors Without Borders, helped set up a hospital isolation center.
One of the two latest deaths was of a 14-year-old boy whose nine relatives also have died in the outbreak in the district's Nyanswiga village, where the first case is thought to have been.
The virus outbreak initially went undetected because patients did not show typical symptoms, such as hemorrhaging, Ugandan Health Minister Dr. Christine Ondoa told CNN.
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(Photo: REUTERS/Edward Echwalu)