The hemorrhagic fever named Ebola, after the Ebola River in the Democratic Republic of Condo, is threatening populations in Uganda. Officials report that about 20 people have contracted the deadly virus in the Kibale district, which sits 100 miles west of the capital, Kampala, and 14 have died from it.
The Guardian reports that about 18 of the 20 of the currently reported cases in Uganda are connected to one family. Since Ebola quickly passes between people who have close physical contact, family members would be the first to quickly contract the illness.
The outbreak of Ebola was not confirmed until Friday afternoon and a team of health experts was dispatched to the area by the World Health Organization, the New York Times reports. Initial reports stated that a “strange illness” was affecting the area several weeks ago. It took officials time to test the strain in laboratories before confirming it was Ebola.
Ebola has become famous throughout the world for its quick and deadly effects. Certain strains kill between 70 and 90 percent of the people who contract the virus. Symptoms include muscle weakness, extremely high fever, vomiting, and internal and external bleeding. These symptoms normally escalate alarmingly quickly.
Previous outbreaks have erupted quite regularly over the years in this area of the world. The first noted outbreak took place in 1976. In 2000, Uganda suffered a major outbreak in which 425 contracted the virus and more than half died from it. In 2007, another 39 people were killed by the virus and last May a 12-year-old girl perished too.
Perhaps the most frightening aspect of Ebola is some of the mysterious aspects of the illness. Researchers still do not understand the origins of the virus or how to cure it. Ebola also has a hard time traveling very far or quickly because of its delicate composition and environmental needs, the New York Times notes.
The mysterious nature of Ebola means it is unlikely to become a biological weapon anytime in the near future, although U.S. officials have kept their eyes on Uganda over the years. A New York Times report from 2010 notes that researchers kept the Ebola virus in an unsecured refrigerator in Uganda in order to study its composition, making some fear security isn’t tight enough around the deadly virus.
Photo Credit: Center for Disease Control