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Western Uganda: Rare Ebola Strain Kills 35; Now 'Under Control,' Medical Authorities Say

Officials are concerned the highly contagious disease may re-emerge in the neighboring Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).

Updated December 18, 2007

Please note: If a sponsored child is directly affected by a crisis or disaster, it is World Vision's policy to notify that child's sponsor as soon as possible.

Patients are treated by World Health Organization (WHO) health workers during a past outbreak of Ebola in Uganda. The best way to stop the spread of this highly contagious disease is through prevention, early detection, and isolation of suspected cases. Photo courtesy of WHO.
An outbreak of Ebola hemorrhagic fever recently has killed five Uganda Ministry of Health workers, including the medical superintendent of Kikyo Health Center in World Vision's Kasitu program area, located in the outbreak's epicenter.

According to an IRIN report on Reuters from Dec. 18, although the outbreak is now 'under control' in Uganda, concerns are that it could re-emerge in the DRC.

Disease Claims 35 Lives

Some 127 cases of suspected Ebola have been reported in Uganda since the highly contagious disease broke out in the country's western district of Bundibugyo in August. Since then, it has claimed 35 lives, including one World Vision-sponsored child and her guardian in the Kasitu program area.

Please pray for World Vision staff members and the children and families affected by this dangerous outbreak.

"Doctors and nurses did not at first know what they were facing, so [they] failed to protect themselves," said an Associated Press report in the Seattle Times on Dec. 6. Since the new Ebola subtype did not exhibit the classic symptoms of Ebola, the diagnosis was slowed.

Specialized Medical Skills

Because highly specialized skills are required to address this deadly disease, World Vision is looking to the expertise provided by Uganda's Ministry of Health and the World Health Organization (WHO). WHO has dispatched to the affected district a team of epidemiologists, including a laboratory specialist and an infection-control expert.

World Vision in Uganda has evacuated its 65 staff members from our three program areas in the affected Bundibugyo district — Kasitu and Bundibugyo, supported by our U.S. donors, and Rwebisengo, supported by our Canadian donors.

World Vision's Response

Our Uganda office also has handed over a consignment of drugs and protective wear to the Ministry of Health that include antibiotics, painkillers, disinfectants, and re-hydration materials — altogether valued at $8,160.

World Vision additionally is helping to create awareness and sensitize local communities to the outbreak through hourly radio clips that continue to air on two local radio stations; our Uganda office also has set up an Ebola task force that is monitoring daily developments.

Meanwhile, the Atlanta-based Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has dispatched eight pathogen experts to Bundibugyo. WHO and the CDC set up an Ebola testing operation at the Uganda Virus Institute in Entebbe on Dec. 13, eliminating the need to fly disease samples to South Africa and the United States for testing.

An outbreak of the highly contagious disease, which can have fatality rates as high as 90 percent, killed at least 170 people in northern Uganda in 2000, the IRIN report added.

Learn More

>> Read a Seattle Times article about the Ebola outbreak in western Uganda.
>> Read a recent IRIN report about the Ebola outbreak in western Uganda.
>> Read more about Ebola hemorrhagic fever.

Two Ways You Can Help

>> Pray for the families who have lost loved ones to this deadly disease, including the families of the five medical workers who have died, as well as the family of the World Vision-sponsored child and her guardian. Pray also for the protection of children and families from becoming infected by the Ebola outbreak in the DRC.
>> Donate now to help provide lifesaving medicines and supplies to children in places around the world where health care needs are great and resources are few.

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