Kampala - Residents in western Uganda said on Thursday they were too scared to go shopping in local markets, visit churches or mosques or travel freely for fear of catching the Ebola virus which has already killed 16 people.
Thirty people are in an isolation ward at a hospital in Kibaale district, where the outbreak started, after 12 new cases were admitted. A total of 232 people suspected to have had contact with Ebola victims were also being monitored.
Health officials are hopeful there will be no repeat of the severity of the Ebola outbreak in Uganda in 2000, when 425 people were infected by the virus, more than half of whom died.
There was no new deaths on Thursday, health workers said, but residents were finding it hard to cope with the preventive measures.
President Yoweri Museveni has advised people to avoid shaking hands, casual sex and do-it-yourself burials to reduce the chance of contracting the deadly haemorrhagic fever.
There is no treatment for Ebola, which is transmitted by close contact and body fluids such as saliva, vomit, faeces, sweat, semen and blood. However, doctors can treat opportunistic diseases and symptoms affecting patients including diarrhoea, vomiting and malaria, and some patients can survive.
“Fears of catching Ebola have twisted people's lives,” Tumusiime Jamilo, a reporter at a local radio station told Reuters. “They can't go to the markets to buy things, others can't sell their products and that's hitting their pockets.”
Tumusiime said people couldn't also freely travel wherever they wanted or go to churches and mosques because of worries they might be infected.
Ugandan authorities said last week they had confirmed the outbreak of Ebola in Kibaale, 170km west of the capital Kampala, and near the Democratic Republic of Congo where the virus first emerged in 1976, taking its name from the Ebola River.
But they have not yet identified the source of the outbreak, although Kibaale Forest has a high concentration of monkeys and birds, which act as transmitters of the virus.
Stephen Mfashingabo, a health official in Kibaale, told Reuters the local Ebola task force had been struggling to cope with insufficient facilities since the disease struck, although funds and medicines had been delivered on Thursday.
“There was no money from the Health Ministry to fund activities since this outbreak was confirmed and there was also no food,” he said.
In neighbouring Kenya, a second suspected case of Ebola was reported in Eldoret, a large town in the Rift Valley, where a man has been placed in isolation.
Public Health and Sanitation Minister, Beth Mugo, however told parliament that tests carried out on the first suspected Ebola case have not been completed, though she said the victim reported bleeding from gums, urine and stool after eating meat from a goat that had been rescued from a python.
She said Kenya has never had a confirmed case of Ebola. - Reuters