14 dead in Ugandan Ebola outbreak
The deadly Ebola virus has killed 14 people in western Uganda this month, health officials said, ending weeks of speculation about the cause of a strange disease that had many people fleeing their homes.
The officials and a World Health Organisation (WHO) representative told a news conference in Kampala that there is "an outbreak of Ebola" in the country.
"Laboratory investigations done at the Uganda Virus Research Institute... have confirmed that the strange disease reported in Kibaale is indeed Ebola haemorrhagic fever," the Ugandan government and WHO said in a joint statement.
Kibaale is a district in mid-western 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 four-month-old baby died from the disease caused by the Ebola virus, officials said.
Officials urged Ugandans to be calm, saying a national emergency task force had been set up to stop the disease from spreading far and wide.
There is no cure or vaccine for Ebola, and in Uganda, where in 2000 the disease killed 224 people and left hundreds more traumatised, 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 haemorrhagic fever, is highly infectious and kills quickly. It was first reported in 1976 in Congo and is named after the river where it was recognised, according to the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention.