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Thursday, February 21, 2008

Uganda now Ebola free, says WHO

KAMPALA - Uganda is now free of the deadly Ebola disease, the World Health Organisation and the Ministry of Health declared yesterday. They announced a memorial slated for February 27, in Bundibugyo district that was devastated by the haemorrhagic fever in August 2007.

The health minister, Dr. Stephen Mallinga, said yesterday marked 42 days since the discharge of the last victim of the viral fever that killed 37 out of the recorded 149 victims. The 42 days, he added, were two incubation periods of 21 days each, which means the transmission cycle had been broken. The “special function” in Bundibugyo is to recognise the residents, leaders and health workers for their efforts in containing the outbreak. “The fight against the disease was difficult because the strain had mutated and not easy to identify,” the commissioner for community health, Dr. Sam Okware, said.

According to the health ministry, the recent epidemic killed fewer people compared to other known Ebola outbreaks.
The death rate, according to the ministry, stood at 25%. The earlier epidemic in northern Uganda in 2000 killed over 50% of the infected while the outbreaks in Sudan and Zaire (now DR Congo) in 1976 claimed over 90% of the victims.

In December last year, the Government released UShs. 5b (about KShs. 200m) as emergency funding to contain Ebola. According to Dr. Okware, the money was used for essential supplies, stores and protective gear and to coordinate control and preventive measures. “The Government will compensate the health workers who were infected and the families of those who died,” Mallinga said. The amount, he noted, would depend on the level of seniority of the deceased.

Dr. Mallinga said the ministry would strengthen the Uganda Virus Research Institute to a sub-regional centre to effectively handle such dangerous diseases. Surveillance will also be stepped up through village health teams, he said. The ministry, Mallinga, added, was researching for the risk factors and possible reservoirs for emerging dangerous organisms. The director general of health services, Dr. Sam Zaramba, revealed that the Government would pay the school fees of the children whose parents died while containing the disease.

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