Ugandan Health officials on Thursday confirmed that the deadly Ebola virus has been identified outside northern Uganda's Gulu district. Despite the new case, World Health officials have not restricted travel to the area.
Experts confirmed the Ebola outbreak on Oct. 14 in the region
around Gulu, 360 kilometers (225 miles) north of Kampala. So far it
has claimed 89 lives, including the soldier who died Oct. 26 in
southern Uganda, and 263 have been infected by the virus.
But following death of an unidentified 20-year-old soldier in
Mbarara, experts from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, Doctors
Without Borders and the World Health Organization were sent to
investigate in the town 282 kilometers (175 miles) southwest of
Late Thursday, Sam Okware, chairman of a national task force set
up to deal with the Ebola outbreak, said doctors had confirmed that
the soldier was the latest victim of the highly contagious disease.
"This soldier is suspected to have had some contact (with the
virus) in Gulu during the burial of an Ebola victim, and we suspect
he may have touched the body," Okware said in a statement.
Before the outbreak was confirmed in Gulu, friends and family of
people who had died in the area ritually bathed the deceased's
body, buried it close to their homes and then washed their hands in
a communal basin as a sign of unity.
Experts immediately put a halt to the traditional practice
because of the high chance of infection for mourners.
The disease can cause severe hemorrhagic fever and can be spread
by bodily contact just like the common cold.
Its early symptoms are similar to those of flu and stomach
upsets, which has led to many false reports.
No one knows where the virus resides between outbreaks or how
the first person in an outbreak contracts it.
Okware said Mbarara hospital and the district were well equipped
to handle cases of the virus.
A person who traveled from Gulu with the soldier was being kept
in isolation at the hospital, Okware said. The person, who has not
been named, went to the hospital complaining of stomach cramps.
"The suspected case in Mbarara took us by surprise," said
Ugandan health official Jimmy Kamugisha earlier Thursday. "We have
sent the medical supplies because there are people who handled him
Both Gulu and Mbarara have military bases, but no other soldiers
have died of the disease, according to officials.
When the outbreak was first identified, there were unconfirmed
reports that it had been brought in by soldiers returning from
neighboring Congo where Ugandan forces are deployed.
But these reports have been rejected by officials. The strain of
the virus involved in the current outbreak has been identified as
Ebola Sudan, one of three strains that can infect humans. It was
last detected in Sudan in 1979.
One of the biggest problems faced by health officials in Gulu
has been dealing with a largely rural, illiterate population
surrounding the district's main town.
But in Mbarara district, a lush, prosperous farming area, the
population is relatively well-educated.
It could take days until it is known whether more cases of Ebola
are identified in Mbarara because the virus can take up to two
weeks to incubate.
Kamugisha said there were no plans to restrict the movements of
the 900 soldiers at Mbarara barracks because, "they are also part
of the population, and it would mean restricting the movements of
There is no known medical cure for Ebola, but patients treated
with aggressive rehydration therapy have a chance of survival.
Francis Omaswa, director of Uganda's health services, said in a
statement Thursday that 134 patients in Gulu had recovered from the