Uganda is not yet Ebola-free, says ministry
By Nicholas Kalungi & Dan Wandera, Ronald Tumusiime, Sarah Tumwebaze & Stephen Otage (email the author)
Posted Monday, August 6 2012 at 01:00
The Ministry of Health yesterday said the country is not yet free from Ebola and asked the public to adhere to the recommended preventive measures in order to safe guard against the deadly disease, which has so far claimed 16 lives and dozens admitted to hospitals.
However, the Health ministry spokesperson, Ms Rukia Nakamatte, urged the public and visitors to the country to remain calm as a consortium of health experts have joined the fight. “Ebola is still around but people should be calm because the situation is under control. It is important that everyone adheres to the recommended practices and preventive measures so that we do not register new cases.
We are running advertisements about all the recommended practices,” Ms Nakamatte said on telephone. Ms Nakamatte said two new suspected Ebola patients were yesterday admitted to Kagadi Hospital in Kibaale District. This increased the officially reported Ebola cases to 36, of which 24 patients had by yesterday tested negative but were still closely monitored by health officials to clear any further doubts and fears. The rise in the Ebola cases tally comes at a time when there are continued inconsistencies in how the whole Ebola outbreak is being handled.
In Kibaale, about 150 health workers, community volunteers and drivers who were deployed to handle the Ebola epidemic had to strike on Saturday over unpaid allowances, only to resume work the following day after getting assurance that their money had been wired on the district account and would be paid out today (Monday).
“Please all your monies are available but we would not make payments today because the process was delayed in crediting the funds on our account by the health ministry,” Mr Emmanuel Ssenoga, the Kibaale Chief Administrative Officer, told the striking group.
Far still, this newspaper was reliably informed that most victims of this highly contagious hemorrhagic fever continued to seek divine intervention through prayers only to turn to hospitals when the disease had reached chronic levels.
Dr Isaac Kakibugu, a medical officer in Kagadi Hospital, said patients resorted to sneaking from the hospital to be prayed for and later die in the community. “We missed the opportunity at the peak of the epidemic. They come and don’t give us the chance to investigate because they have a tendency to spend most of their time in prayer places yet this epidemic started in a prayerful family,” he said.
Meanwhile, Luweero District Health Department has reactivated Ebola response teams, 14 months after the outbreak of the contagious hemorrhagic fever which claimed the life of a 12-month-old girl in May 2011. As a way of combating the disease, Mr Benjamin Sensasi, the communications officer of World Health Organisation (WHO), informed this paper that the organisation had brought in four experts from its Geneva head offices to work with already available medics in the fight against the disease.
“Two of the experts are epidemiologists, one logistician and the other is an infection Control Expert. They come from WHO offices in Geneva and Congo Brazzaville. They will stay in Kibaale until the Ebola epidemic is reduced to Zero,” Mr Sensasi said.
This latest Ebola outbreak that was first reported in Kibaale less than a month ago has so far killed 16 people, 36 cases have been reported and 353 contacts are still being followed. Importantly, the manner in which the disease is being handled has underlined deep-cutting weaknesses in our capacity to handle emergencies let alone epidemic-related ones.