The group’s journey began with the funeral of a relative, and ended with the infection and death of several loved ones.
On June 11, the World Health Organization (WHO) reported the death of a five-year-old child in Uganda from Ebola. A few days later, his grandmother passed away from the disease, and as many as 27 people could make contact with the carriers. The situation has rapidly acquired the status of a national threat, since the spread of the deadly virus is very difficult to control, and there is no cure for it.
According to local authorities, the outbreak was the fault of the boy’s family, the first victim of a new wave of the disease in Uganda. In early June, a family from Congo went to another part of the country to bid farewell to a deceased relative who served as a local priest. At that time, no one knew that the elderly man died from Ebola.
A family of 12-14 people, including small children, went on a trip. They safely reached the local village where their relative lived and attended the funeral. After bidding farewell, they went back, but this time they were detained, and the doctors recorded Ebola symptoms in several people.
The family was sent to quarantine in a Congo hospital, but, under unclear circumstances, six people escaped from the supervision of doctors and went around the Uganda border cordon. Soon after, they felt unwell, they were hospitalized at a local clinic. “In this way, the virus turned into an international incident and crossed Uganda’s border,” says NRP reporter Jason Bobien, covering events in Africa.
According to the journalist, distrust of doctors and quarantine is not a unique story for the region. Over the years, various groups have fought in the north of the Congo, and living in such conditions has led to a general feeling of distrust among the locals. In such realities, many see medical specialists in danger and prefer to run away from them. “When the outbreak began in the Congo, people did not believe that they would be taken care of in medical centers. They decided that they were plotting against them, ”explains Bobien.
For Africa, the Ebola virus has long become synonymous with great danger. During the largest outbreak in 2014–2016 in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone , more than 11,000 people died. In July 2018, the infection spread to Congo, causing the death of 1,390 people in less than a year.
Ebola is spread from person to person with blood, secretions, and / or other body fluids infected, as well as from bedding or clothing. The disease begins with the symptoms of a common cold, but quickly devours collagen, the protein that forms the basis of the connective tissue of the body. This leads to breaks in the skin, as well as spontaneous bleeding from the eyes, nose and mouth.
Often the disease is accompanied by seizures, during which a person can infect nearby people with blood splashes. An infected person suffers from severe diarrhea and bouts of vomiting, which over time is accompanied by abundant hemorrhage.
In the final stages, when Ebola destroys the immune system, bloody blisters appear on the body, and the eyes of an infected person turn red. At the same time, blood vessels begin to burst all over the body, reducing blood flow to vital organs. As a result, they turn off, leading to death.
On average, from the time of illness to death, it takes from six to 16 days. Mortality rate is 90%. A reliable vaccine against fever does not exist, but thanks to international research, experimental versions appear that increase the chance of recovery.
The unexpected penetration of Ebola into Uganda caused serious fears among WHO and public organizations, but the situation is still stable. The country has been preparing for this for almost a year, so about 4,700 employees of medical institutions have already received experimental vaccination against fever. It will be the first barrier from Ebola in a flash. Vaccination will begin to take place and all arriving from Congo – for this, WHO has allocated 3,500 doses of the drug.
Two days after the arrest, a five-year-old boy from Congo, who fled to Uganda with his family members, died. He became the first registered victim of the disease outside the country since 2018. His 50-year-old grandmother died next .
At the time of writing, four out of six family members are alive . At one of the doctors also found Ebola, the condition of the rest is questionable. All of them were transported back to Congo, where they are kept in border quarantine. According to experts, the number of those who have been in contact with members of a sick family in Uganda can be between eight and 27 people. All of them will be vaccinated.
Ugandan authorities called on local people to cooperate fully with border guards and doctors, and also temporarily refrain from visiting markets, weddings and funerals. Nevertheless, the Ministry of Health stressed that after the expulsion of a sick family in the country, there are no more registered cases of Ebola infection. The department did not forget about the tourists: “[Our] country is safe, and all our national parks and tourist facilities remain open and accessible to the public.”