Friday, December 14, 2007

Ebola Outbreak Caused By Eating Monkeys

Four months since the deadly Ebola fever broke out in western Uganda, there is still no clear explanation of where the original victim contracted the virus from. But government now believes the outbreak may have come as a result of people eating monkey meat.

Officials in Bundibugyo district were by press-time still noncommittal about what sparked off the current outbreak. Chief Administrative Officer (CAO) Elias Byamungu, said that investigations were continuing, while Resident District Commissioner (RDC) Samuel Kazinga, who chairs the district's Ebola Task Force, promised to make the information public once investigations were complete.

Tracing this "index case" is important to scientists trying to understand exactly where the Ebola virus hides between outbreaks. Knowing this natural reservoir would help the country cope better with any future outbreaks.

Initial reports said that the first victims had eaten a dead goat suspected to have been bitten by a monkey. But speaking in Kampala last week, President Yoweri Museveni cast doubts at monkey-goat theory, suggesting instead that the initial victims might have eaten a monkey.

This appears to be the official view. The minister of State for Health, Emmanuel Otaala, said early this week that investigators had failed to find any trace of the goat suspected to have been bitten by the monkey.

"We tried to trace for the skin of the said goat but in vain," Otaala said by telephone. "So we think the victims actually ate the monkey. And you see Ebola is not known to stay in goats but it can affect primates like monkeys."

The Ministry of Health says the strain of Ebola in Bundibugyo and Kabarole is different from previous types identified in Zaire, Ebola Sudan, Ebola Ivory Coast and Ebola Reston (USA). Medical authorities suggest that this latest strain of Ebola may not be as lethal as previous ones and should not be hard to contain.

Ebola is a highly infectious viral disease without a cure - characterised by fever, joint pains, vomiting and bleeding, among other symptoms. In most outbreaks, up to 70 percent of those infected die.


Story here.

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