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VIRUS INSTITUTE: Sudan Ebola strain is milder

The URVI Lab. UVRI FILE PHOTO

Kampala, Uganda | FLAVIA NASSAKA – URN |  The death rate from the newly confirmed outbreak of the Ebola Hemorrhagic fever in Mubende is likely to be low,  according to scientists at the Uganda Virus Research Institute-UVRI.

Dr. Julius Lutwama who heads the Department of Arbovirology, Emerging and Re-Emerging Infectious Diseases at UVRI explains the confirmed Sudan viral strain is usually milder than all the other strains adding that some people may get exposed but will not show symptoms at all.

“The symptoms arre not any different, only that Ebola Sudan is milder than Ebola Zaire. Ebola Zaire will kill between 20 to 80% of people it infects, while Ebola Sudan kills between 20% to 60% of those infected. There are higher chances of survival with Ebola Sudan,” Lutwama said.

While generally the viral hemorrhagic fever is feared for being lethal and can kill in a very short time, Lutwama says the death rate from the Sudan variant has some of the lowest death rates if compared to other strains. While Ebola Zaire which normally circulates in the neighboring Democratic Republic of Congo-DRC will kill twenty to eighty percent of those that get infected, the Sudan variant will kill between twenty and fifty percent of sufferers.

While Uganda has had several outbreaks of Ebola since the first case in October 2000, the country has never recorded the Zaire Strain which has severally been reported in the DRC. Uganda has only had the Sudan and Bundibugyo strains.

“Ebola Sudan is what is circulating in Uganda, we have never had Ebola Zaire. In Budibugyo, the Ebola was named Bundibugyo. It has occurred in DRC, so they have also ever had an Ebola Bundibugyo,” Dr Luwama explained.

On Friday, Uganda confirmed seven cases of Ebola where one case has since succumbed to the disease. Other seven cases are reported to have died in the community before tests were done.

Epidemiologists at the Ministry of Health are still establishing the source of the current episode of infection.

According to Dr. Allan Muruta the Commissioner of Epidemiology and Surveillance, immediately after confirming a case, they sent teams to do an oral post-mortem in Mubende to establish who the real first case could have been.

Lutwama says finding the exact source of infection has baffled his team over the years considering that by the time they confirm a case, the index cases that can offer clues will have died. The same happened in the current outbreak as the Ministry of Health reports that six probable cases could have succumbed to the disease weeks ago be the first confirmed case.

“We do not know where it comes from right now. It might be circulating in the forests or wilderness, problem is once one person dies, several others are already dead. The one person we know is dead. We cannot tell how it came into the human population,” he said

Meanwhile, the number of people admitted at Mubende Referral Hospital has increased from 13 to 21.

Health workers at Mubende hospital said that the patients were brought to the hospital from Madudu Sub County in Mubende District and Kyaka Refugee Camp in Kyegegwa District.

By Wednesday, 8 people among them an enrolled nurse were confirmed dead due to Ebola.

At the hospital, people accessing the facility have to undergo screening as a measure to mitigate the spread of Ebola virus disease.

Dr Paul Emmanuel Batiibwa, the Hospital Director said that a tent will be placed at the main entrance of the hospital where personnel will be placed to screen everyone before entering as well as spraying those leaving the hospital.   He also said that arrangements are underway to set up a space that can admit and treat more than 50 patients.

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