Update 08.08.12

  • 17 people are confirmed to have died since the beginning of the Ebola outbreak
  • 8 patients are admitted in Kagadi hospital, where MSF launched an emergency intervention a week ago.  Among them there are 2 confirmed cases. Lab tests continue.
  • Over the past few days we have been able to discharge people who had been admitted because they had some symptoms but were found not to be suffering from Ebola.

Outbreaks of Ebola are rare, but for Dr. Olimpia de la Rosa, MSF’s emergency coordinator, dealing with the disease is nothing new. The last time Ebola hit Uganda, in 2007, she supported an MSF team fighting the outbreak. Five years later, MSF’s emergency response is again in full swing as teams help to combat the spread of the deadly virus. Jump to video

What is the current situation in Uganda and how many people are affected?

Dr. Olimpia de la Rosa, MSF

So far 36 cases of Ebola have been reported and the disease has claimed 14 lives. Laboratory tests have officially confirmed that the virus is Ebola.

Where is the epicentre of the outbreak?

Eighteen people with Ebola have been admitted to the hospital in Kagadi, in western Uganda’s Kibaale district. On 31 July, an MSF team launched an emergency response in Kigadi to limit the spread of the virus.

In this video, MSF specialist Henry Grey demonstrates to health staff how to dress in protective clothing in order to treat patients who are suffering with suspected Ebola

When were the first cases of Ebola detected in this outbreak?

The Ebola outbreak was officially declared on 28 July, but the first cases appeared on 12 July. The early symptoms of Ebola can be similar to other infectious diseases, so anyone displaying symptoms must be treated with extreme caution. The first case appears to have been a little girl of three months, whose mother was also sick. When the girl passed away, her family tried to find out what she had died from, but they couldn’t find the answer, though there were rumours of witchcraft and magic.

Sixty-five people attended the little girl’s funeral, 15 of whom became sick, and 11 of whom have since died. 

Are people in Kigadi scared that Ebola will spread?

The community in Kagadi is certainly concerned, but the situation in the area is calm and the hospital remains open. If we can limit the spread of the Ebola virus, we can get the epidemic under control.

Has the outbreak spread to the Uganda’s capital, Kampala?

So far, the majority of cases of Ebola have been identified in the Kibaale region, which is where MSF has launched its emergency response.

What is MSF doing to stem the outbreak in Uganda?

MSF’s priority is to limit the spread of the outbreak and to stop new cases occurring, by treating people who are already infected and by setting up a detection system to identify new cases as soon as possible so as to isolate and treat them. We have set up health promotion teams to alert the community to the symptoms of the virus and to advise them how to avoid infection and reduce the risk of contagion.

In this video, MSF epidemiologist and Ebola specialist Dr. Michel Van Herp explains the medical facts of the disease.  His interview starts at 11.10

Why do MSF’s medical teams wear special suits when treating Ebola patients?

Ebola hemorrhagic fever spreads rapidly through direct contact with infected people or animals, and can be transmitted through blood, bodily fluids and even contact with clothes worn by an infected person. MSF teams wear these suits to avoid exposure to the virus.

What care do patients receive?

Severe cases require intensive supportive care. Patients are frequently dehydrated and in need of oral rehydration solution. So far, there is no specific treatment or vaccine for Ebola hemorrhagic fever. Several potential vaccines are being tested, but it could be several years before one is available.

Why are funerals a concern in an Ebola outbreak?

Because Ebola is so contagious, and spreads through contact with bodily fluids, funerals are a real cause for concern, especially if protective measures are not taken when handling the body. The majority of deaths in this outbreak are of people who attended the little girl’s funeral.

Is there a cure for Ebola?

There is no specific treatment for Ebola, but there are people who survive the disease. The death rate depends on the type of Ebola, of which there are five. This outbreak is the Ebola-Sudan strain, which first appeared in Sudan in 1976.

It is not the most deadly, virulent strain, but it does cause death in up to 70 percent of cases.

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