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 17 October 2000, 81 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
- case finding, contact tracing and monitoring, and
- supplying protective equipment.
Epidemiologists from the WHO African
Regional Office 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 field investigation of the
"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," Dr Ryan said. "It is very important that there is
effective coordination of the international response to this outbreak."
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,
Global Outbreak Alert and Response Network is a technical partnership of national and
international institutions and smaller networks who mobilize and pool their resources so
that outbreaks of potential international importance are detected, verified and responded
to efficiently and effectively by the international community.