- One of the dead is a teen whose relatives previously died of the virus
- Concerns over infection ripple across Uganda
- Health teams are working to deal with the issue
Two more people have died in Uganda's Ebola outbreak, officials working at a hospital said Wednesday.
This brings the death toll to 16 people. They died in an outbreak that began in the Kibaale district in western Uganda.
One of the two latest deaths was of a 14-year-old boy whose nine relatives also have died in the outbreak in the district's Nyanswiga village, where the first case is thought to have been.
The two died in a hospital in Kagadi, a town close to the Congolese border. About three dozen suspected cases have been reported, World Health Organization spokesman Tariq Jasarevic said Tuesday.
The deaths have stoked heightened fear about the spread of the virus, a highly infectious, often fatal agent spread through direct contact with bodily fluids. Symptoms can include fever, vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal pain, headache, a measles-like rash, red eyes and, at times, bleeding from body openings.
Market day was canceled Wednesday after Uganda's president warned people not to gather in large groups. Drivers of taxi motorbikes called boda-boda have become reluctant to take on passengers and there have been rumors that public transportation will be banned.
Health officials urged the public to report any suspected cases, to avoid contact with anyone infected and to wear gloves and masks while disinfecting bedding and clothing of infected people. Officials also advised avoiding public gatherings in the affected district.
Teams in Uganda are taking an aggressive approach, including trying to track down anyone who came into contact with patients infected with the virus and health workers have been gearing up for better protection of health workers and an influx of cases.
The workers include people from Uganda's ministry of health, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the WHO.
The outbreak initially went undetected because patients did not show typical symptoms, Ugandan Health Minister Dr. Christine Ondoa told CNN on Sunday. Patients had fevers and were vomiting, but did not show other typical symptoms, such as hemorrhaging.
Diagnosis in an individual who has only recently been infected can be difficult since early symptoms, such as red eyes and skin rash, are seen more frequently in patients who have more common diseases, the CDC said.
Uganda's Ministry of Health declared the outbreak in Kibaale district Saturday after the Uganda Virus Research Institute identified the disease as Ebola hemorrhagic fever, Sudan strain.
Some people delayed seeking treatment, in part, because they believed that "evil spirits" had sickened them, according to a report from district health authorities.
"This caused civil strife among the community, requiring police intervention to quell the animosity," the Health Ministry said.
An emergency team of 100 volunteers underwent training this week to help spread the word in vulnerable communities about the disease and its transmission, the Uganda Red Cross Society said. Medecins Sans Frontieres, also known as Doctors Without Borders, helped set up a hospital isolation center.
The WHO did not recommend any travel or trade restrictions be applied to Uganda because of the outbreak. The U.S. Embassy in Kampala issued an emergency message for U.S. citizens that said the outbreak appeared to be centered in Nyamarunda Sub County, Kibaale district, although one suspected victim is reported to have traveled to Kampala for treatment at Mulago Hospital, where he died on July 22.
It urged avoiding contact with dead animals, especially primates, and refraining from eating "bushmeat."
The Ebola virus was first detected in 1976 in the central African nation of Zaire (now the Democratic Republic of the Congo). The virus is named after a river in that country, where the first outbreak of the disease was found. There are five species of Ebola viruses, all named after the areas where they were found: Zaire, Sudan, Cote d'Ivoire, Bundibugyo and Reston, according to the WHO.