A medical worker from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention works at the laboratory in Uganda where Ebola specimens were tested at the start of the latest outbreak in the Democratic Republic of Congo
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WHO warns Congo Ebola outbreak could spread
Posted: Sep 13, 2012 1:58 PM ET
Last Updated: Sep 13, 2012 1:53 PM ET
31 people including 5 health-care workers die from virusThe World Health Organization is warning that an Ebola virus outbreak in Congo is very serious and could spread to larger centres.
"If nothing is done now, the disease will reach other places, and even major towns will be threatened," WHO spokesman Eugene Kabambi told Reuters in Kinshasa, the capital of Congo.
Reuters said 31 people have died, including five health-care workers.
The outbreak is currently limited to Isiro and Viadana, two villages in a northeastern province of Congo.
WHO says there are about 65 probable or suspected cases of Ebola in the country. Another 108 people were reported to be under surveillance.
Ebola, which causes massive bleeding, kills up to 90 per cent of the people who contract it, according to WHO. Congo has been the scene of several outbreaks of the disease.
The virus is transmitted by direct contact with the blood, body fluids and tissues of infected persons.
Transmission of the virus has also occurred by handling sick or dead infected wild animals including chimpanzees, gorillas, monkeys, forest antelope and fruit bats.
Death Toll Climbs In Congo Ebola Outbreak
The deaths from the hemorrhagic fever outbreak doubled in the past week. World Health Organization spokesman Tarik Jasarevic tells Shots that's because they have discovered more people who were originally infected.
"We can expect an increase in the number of cases as more people are tracked. These are not necessarily new cases," Jasarevic says. "I want to stress that this is a serious outbreak, and there is a risk of the Ebola virus spreading, but we would not say that it's out of control.".
Earlier Thursday, another WHO spokesman, who is in Congo's capital city, told Reuters the outbreak was "out of control" and "if nothing is done now, the disease will reach other places, and even major towns will be threatened."
The WHO has been working with the Congo's health ministry and nonprofit groups to treat those infected, locate people they were in contact with and to quarantine suspected cases. The U.S. Centers for Disease and Prevention established a field laboratory on the scene for testing infections.
The outbreak was first reported to WHO on Aug. 17, with 10 cases and 6 deaths. By Sept. 3, the number of people infected had increased to 28 cases and 14 deaths.
The infections first appeared near Isiro, a city with a population of about 150,000 in the northeast. The outbreak then spread to a second town about 50 miles away when a woman caught the virus at a funeral for an Ebola victim.
The Congo has had eight previous Ebola outbreak since 1976, including one in 2007 that killed almost 200 people. This current outbreak comes on the heels of one in Uganda in July that claimed the lives of 17 people.
The CDC confirmed that the two outbreaks aren't connected because they were caused by different kinds of Ebola. In the Congo, infections are due to Ebola-Bundibugyo, a subtype which had a death rate of about 34 percent in a past outbreak.
Although there isn't a cure or vaccine for Ebola, patients can be treated for some symptoms, such as fever, vomiting, diarrhea and dehydration.
A lab specialist examines specimens of the Ebola virus at a research centre in Entebbe, Uganda, last year. A new outbreak in midwestern Uganda initially baffled health workers. (James Akena/Reuters)
Uganda Ebola outbreak kills 14
The Associated Press
Posted: Jul 28, 2012 12:41 PM ET
Last Updated: Jul 30, 2012 7:48 AM ET
The officials and a World Health Organization representative told a news conference in Kampala Saturday that there is "an outbreak of Ebola" in Uganda.
"Laboratory investigations done at the Uganda Virus Research Institute...have confirmed that the strange disease reported in Kibaale is indeed Ebola hemorrhagic fever," the Ugandan government and WHO said in joint statement.
Kibaale is a district in midwestern Uganda, where people in recent weeks have been troubled by a mysterious illness that seemed to have come from nowhere. Ugandan health officials had been stumped as well, and spent weeks conducting laboratory tests that were at first inconclusive.
On Friday, Joaquim Saweka, the WHO representative in Uganda, told The Associated Press that investigators were "not so sure" it was Ebola, and a Ugandan health official dismissed the possibility of Ebola as merely a rumour. It appears firm evidence of Ebola was clinched overnight.
Health officials told reporters in Kampala that the 14 dead were among 20 reported with the disease. Two of the infected have been isolated for examination by researchers and health officials. A clinical officer and, days later, her 4-month-old baby died from the disease caused by the Ebola virus, officials said.
Officials urged Ugandans to be calm, saying a national emergency taskforce had been set up to stop the disease from spreading far and wide.
Killed 224 in 2000There is no cure or vaccine for Ebola, and in Uganda, where in 2000 the disease killed 224 people and left hundreds more traumatized, it resurrects terrible memories. There have been isolated cases since, such as in 2007 when an outbreak of a new strain of Ebola killed at least 37 people in Bundibugyo, a remote district close to the Congolese border, but none as deadly as in 2000.
Ebola, which manifests itself as a hemorrhagic fever, is highly infectious and kills quickly. It was first reported in 1976 in Congo and is named for the river where it was recognized, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
A CDC factsheet on Ebola says the disease is "characterized by fever, headache, joint and muscle aches, sore throat, and weakness, followed by diarrhea, vomiting, and stomach pain. A rash, red eyes, hiccups and internal and external bleeding may be seen in some patients."
Scientists don't know the natural reservoir of the virus, but they suspect the first victim in an Ebola outbreak gets infected through contact with an infected animal, such as a monkey.
The virus can be transmitted through direct contact with the blood or secretions of an infected person, or objects that have been contaminated with infected secretions. During communal funerals, for example, when the bereaved come into contact with an Ebola victim, the virus can be contracted, officials said, warning against unnecessary contact with suspected cases of Ebola.
In Kibaale, some villagers had started abandoning their homes in recent weeks to escape what they thought was an illness that had something to do with bad luck, because people were quickly falling ill and dying, and there was no immediate explanation, officials said.
Officials said now that they've verified Ebola in the area they can concentrate on controlling the disease. Ebola patients were being treated at the only major hospital in Kibaale, said Stephen Byaruhanga, the district's health secretary.
"Being a strange disease, we were shocked to learn that it was Ebola," Byaruhanga said. "Our only hope is that in the past when Ebola broke out in other parts of Uganda it was controlled."
The challenge, he said, was retaining the services of all the nurses and doctors who are being asked to risk their lives in order to look after the sick.
"Their lives are at stake," he said.
Officials also worry that other villagers suffering from other diseases might be afraid to visit the hospital for fear of catching Ebola, he said.