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Ebola Virus in Uganda

07.31.2012



The Ugandan government and international health authorities have reported an outbreak of the Ebola virus that started in the Nyamarunda sub-country in the Kibaale District, a region located about 120 kms away from Kibale Forest National Park and Ndali Lodge where some of our safaris visit. The Ugandan Ministry of Health and the United States Center for Disease Control are monitoring cases to determine the extent of the outbreak including cases reported in the capital city Kampala.

The World Heath Organization [WHO] describes the very localized and predominantly culturally-based ways Ebola is transmitted:

  • The Ebola virus is transmitted by direct contact with the blood, secretions, organs or other bodily fluids of infected persons.
  • Burial ceremonies where mourners have direct contact with the body of the deceased person can play a significant role in the transmission of Ebola.
  • The infection of human cases with Ebola virus has been documented through the handling of infected chimpanzees, gorillas, and forest antelopes--both dead and alive. (Of course, we do not touch primates.)
  • Health care workers have been infected while treating Ebola patients, through close contact without the use of correct infection control precautions and adequate barrier nursing procedures.

Experienced travelers on an organized safari have extremely little risk of contracting Ebola as they would not likely come into contact with an infected person, especially through contact with bodily fluids.

This is the fourth occurrence of Ebola in Uganda since 2000, when 224 people died. At least 42 people died in another outbreak in 2007, and there was a lone Ebola case in 2011. Uganda’s national emerging disease task force is highly advanced in their management of outbreaks of Ebola, yellow fever and other diseases in past years. To date there have been 14 cases from this outbreak and strident measures are now being taken to quarantine and isolate the disease.

Ebola’s incubation period is 7-10 days and once contained it dies off quickly. So if health officials can contain the disease soon, worries among the local population and concerns about travel there will be over in a matter of weeks


The current situation of the Ebola outbreak in Uganda – Updated Aug 1, 2012

There appears to be a certain level of miscommunication amongst the international news regarding the Ebola outbreak in Uganda. Please find below the current situation of the Ebola outbreak:

(1)  All infections to date have occurred in the Kibaale District.

(2)  The number of cases has increased during the past few days, but the outbreak is still limited to the region of Kibaale - WHO.

(3)  36 suspected or confirmed cases. All of the cases are in the Kibaale District - WHO.

(4)  One infected person travelled to a hospital in Kampala, triggering reports that the Ebola outbreak had spread to the capital. There have been no signs that people in Kampala have been infected - WHO.

(5)  There have been 14 new suspected cases (mostly health workers) - 3 are being treated in Mulago Hospital in Kampala. These 3 patients have also been transferred from the Kibaale District - WHO.

(6)  All medical personnel who have been in contact with the patients in Mulago Hospital, Kampala are in quarantine.

(7)  WHO does not recommend any travel or trade restrictions be applied to Uganda.

Please consult the World Health Organization website for up to date and correct information on the Ebola situation in Uganda. Their website is http://www.who.int/csr/don/2012_07_29/en/index.html

 

Our recommended course of action

Until health authorities report that the Ebola virus has been contained in Uganda and the current outbreak subsides, we are not accepting new bookings to Uganda that require non-refundable deposits such as gorilla permits. For passengers currently booked on a safari in Uganda we recommend a ‘wait and see’ to monitor events since the disease can run its course quickly. Should it become advisable to postpone travel we will work with local authorities and suppliers to change dates and transfer deposits (where feasible), or otherwise cancel your trip (subject to in-country non-refundable cancellation fees such as gorilla permits).

Health authorities in neighboring countries of Kenya and Rwanda are taking strict measures to control its spread across national borders, and such measures have been effective in previous disease outbreaks. Contracting Ebola is a relatively rare event and typically isolated to small, out-of-the-way destinations not frequented by tourists so at this time travel to Rwanda, Kenya and Tanzania is not affected by what’s happening in Uganda.

We have been in contact with all of the lodges and they have assured us that they have proactively sensitized their staff thoroughly about Ebola and the outbreak. No staff members have been allowed to go on leave since the outbreak occurred. Staff members are from the local community and all have agreed not to travel outside the local area until the situation passes.