The World Health Organization (WHO), in conjunction
with its partners in the Global Outbreak Alert and Response Network,
is coordinating the international response to an outbreak of
haemorrhagic fever in Gulu District, northern Uganda.
Laboratory testing carried out at the National
Institute of Virology in South Africa indicates that the cause of the
outbreak is the Ebola virus. These are the first cases of Ebola ever
reported in Uganda.
As of 16 October 2000, 71 suspected cases,
including 35 deaths, have been reported. Cases were first reported in
a local hospital in Gulu town and are now occurring in the community.
The Ugandan Ministry of Health has established a
National Task Force for the Control of Viral Haemorrhagic Fevers for
managing the response to the epidemic. WHO is supporting the Ministry
of Health and this Task Force in disease containment by:
- coordinating the international response to the outbreak,
- implementing disease control measures, such as barrier nursing
- finding cases, tracing contacts and monitoring them, and
- supplying protective equipment.
Epidemiologists from the WHO Regional Office for
Africa and the WHO office in Kampala, Uganda are already assisting
with investigation and implementation of control measures. Drs Mike
Ryan and Simon Mardel, epidemiologists from WHO headquarters in
Geneva, will leave for Uganda today in order to provide further
expertise in clinical management of cases and in the field
investigation of the outbreak.
"WHO and its partners will work with the
Ugandan authorities to contain the disease in the outbreak zone and to
reduce its spread in local communities. It is very important that
there is effective coordination of the international response to this
outbreak," Dr Ryan said.
Initial funding for this rapid response has been
provided by the governments of Germany, Ireland, Italy and Japan.
Ebola haemorrhagic fever is one of the most
virulent viral diseases known to humankind, causing death in 50-90% of
cases. The Ebola virus is transmitted by direct contact with the
blood, secretions, organs or semen of infected persons. The Ebola
virus was first identified in 1976 in the western equatorial province
of Sudan and in the nearby region of Yambuku, northern Democratic
Republic of the Congo, (then Zaire.)