There is panic and confusion in Agago district after four people were admitted at Kalongo Hospital with signs of Ebola virus. When contacted, MOH publicist Rukia Nakamatte, who had earlier told URN that all was fine, called back saying there is an ebola-like virus in Agago, but not ebola itself. She says they earlier suspected ebola or Marburg viruses but both tests turned out negative. However, the patient was diagnosed with Crimean-Congo haemorrhagic fever (CCHF).
While the District Health Officer Dr Emmanuel Otto says the virus has been confirmed as the deadly ebola haemorrhagic fever, Rukia Nakamatte, the Ministry of Health publicist says it is not ebola. Meanwhile, a nurse at the hospital who did not want to be named due to the sensitivity of the matter, told Uganda Radio Network that the first patient escaped from the Hospital on Wednesday shortly after his blood samples were taken. The nurse says when the results returned on Thursday, they were positive but the patient was no where to be seen. Three more cases have been reported in Omot Sub County and they are all being treated at Kalongo Hospital.
Dr. Emmanuel Otto told Uganda Radio Network that the Ministry of Health has confirmed the strain of the virus to be Congo Ebola type. He also says when the patient was first taken to Kalongo hospital with symptoms similar to that presented by Ebola victims, the district health office got suspicious and took blood samples to the government virus research centre.
Otto says their suspicion was confirmed when the ministry informed them later in the day that the disease was confirmed to be Ebola. Dr. Otto says the district emergency team is holding a meeting at Kalongo Hospital to draw an emergency plan to combat the disease. Dr. Otto says the patients are currently receiving treatment at the hospital.
//Cue in: "About the outbreak...
Cue out:...in isolation ward."//
Dr. Otto has appealed to the residents in the district to be calm as the health team handles the situation.
Nakamatte, however, insisted that there was no ebola in Agago, noting that they have just checked the weekly epidemiological survey report and that there was no information confirming the outbreak. She however said a team from the ministry was on the ground in Agago.
After a short while Nakamatte, who had earlier told URN that all was fine, called back saying there is an ebola-like virus in Agago, but not ebola itself. She says they earlier suspected ebola or Marburg viruses but both tests turned out negative. However, the patient was diagnosed with Crimean-Congo haemorrhagic fever (CCHF). She also says that a team from the Ministry of Health was sent to look for the patient who had been discharged from Kalongo Hospital.
Repeated calls to Dr Jane Ruth Aceng, the Director General Health Services at the Ministry of Health went unanswered.
CCHF is a haemorrhagic disease caused by a tick-borne virus (Nairovirus) of the Bunyaviridae family. According to the World Health Organisation, the CCHF virus causes severe viral haemorrhagic fever outbreaks, with a case fatality rate of 10 - 40%. Nakamatte says CCHF is not as deadly as ebola, whose fatality rate can be as high as 90%.
It is endemic in Africa, the Balkans, the Middle East and Asian countries south of the 50th parallel north - the geographical limit of the principal tick vector.
WHO says the hosts of the CCHF virus include a wide range of wild and domestic animals such as cattle, sheep and goats. Many birds are resistant to infection, but ostriches are susceptible and may show a high prevalence of infection in endemic areas, where they have been at the origin of human cases.
The disease presents with fever, myalgia or muscle ache, dizziness, neck pain and stiffness, backache, headache, sore eyes and photophobia or sensitivity to light. There may be nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea, abdominal pain and sore throat early on, followed by sharp mood swings and confusion among others.
This is not the first time Ebola and other diseases have hit northern Uganda. Since 2009, the region has been battling the nodding syndrome commonly known as the nodding disease that has affected more than 3000 children.
Over the past 12 years, Uganda has been prone to ebola outbreak with the last recorded cases in 2012 when at least 17 people were killed mainly in Kibaale and Luweero districts.
In 2000, an ebola outbreak killed 224 people in Gulu district. Among the dead was the then director of St Mary's Hospital, Lacor, Dr Matthew Lukwiya.