By Taddeo Bwambale
Health officials have stepped up surveillance against the deadly disease which has claimed over 100 people in neighbouring Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).
A health surveillance team has been deployed at Uganda’s border points with Congo since the outbreak started about two months ago. Uganda has had no Ebola outbreak since 2012.
Dr Henry Mwebesa, the director general of health services said the health taskforce had so far screened 220 suspected cases of Ebola but none has tested positive for Ebola.
On Tuesday, one of the suspected cases admitted to Bwera Hospital was isolated and tested for the disease but tests turned out negative, Mwebesa disclosed on Wednesday.
It takes an average of 24 hours to deliver samples from the border points with Congo in western Uganda to Entebbe and test them for the Ebola virus. It takes about six hours to drive from Kasese to Entebbe.
Mwebasa said moving some of the hi-tech equipment to western Uganda would significantly shorten the period it takes to confirm the health status of suspected cases.
“The minister has directed us to move testing equipment to western Uganda. It will take about four hours to confirm whether a suspected case has the Ebola virus,” he explained.
The team is also teaching communities about Ebola, to be vigilant and reporting any suspicious cases for investigation while health workers have been trained to detect and handle any suspected Ebola case.
The joint team is also preparing to undertake vaccination of front-line health workers against infection with Ebola Zaire, the strain causing the outbreak in DRC.
The deadly Ebola virus is transmitted through blood, secretions, organs or other bodily fluids of infected animals such as chimpanzees, gorillas, fruit bats, monkeys, forest antelope and porcupines.
A person suffering from Ebola can infect other people through physical contact with body fluids such as saliva, blood, stool, vomit, urine and sweat from an infected person and soiled clothing.
Ebola cases present with a sudden onset of fever, fatigue, muscle pain, headache and sore throat. This is followed by vomiting, diarrhoea, rash, symptoms of impaired kidney and liver function, and in some cases, both internal and external bleeding (e.g. oozing from the gums, blood in the stools).
Contact with fruit bats or monkeys or apes and the consumption of their meat is discouraged, as well as direct or close contact with people with Ebola symptoms.
The health ministry advises people who visit hospitals to wash hands with water and soap, report suspicious cases to the nearest health facility or call toll free number 0800100066.