Experts fly out to battle Ebola

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The Independent Online

International experts are heading to Uganda in an attempt to avert a serious outbreak of the deadly Ebola virus.

International experts are heading to Uganda in an attempt to avert a serious outbreak of the deadly Ebola virus.

There have already been 33 deaths reported to have been caused by the virus, with experts fearing that the numbers could run into the hundreds if cases are not swiftly isolated.

The first Ebola patients turned up at a hospital in the town of Gulu, 225 miles north of Kampala, two weeks ago. Three student nurses who treated them also have died, the Ministry of Health said.

At least seven people caught the highly contagious hemorrhagic fever Saturday alone, the ministry said. At least 20 people were being treated on Sunday at Lacor Hospital.

Ebola has no known cure and kills up to 90 percent of its victims, according to the World Health Organization, which sent two experts to investigate and advise local health authorities on how to handle the outbreak.

Investigators from the US Centers for Disease Control were expected to head to Africa on Monday or Tuesday to help WHO determine the origin of the outbreak and to help contain it, CDC spokeswoman Barbara Reynolds said.

Uganda has never recorded an outbreak of Ebola before, but there have been cases of the closely related Marburg virus.

Ebola was named after a river in Congo, where it was first detected in a number of villages in 1976.

The virus, spread through contact with bodily fluids, takes between four and 14 days to kill its victims and causes massive internal bleeding, vomiting and diarrhea, all of which spread the virus.

Death usually comes when the victim "bleeds out" through the eyes, nose, ears and other bodily orifices.

The last major outbreak struck Kikwit, Congo, in 1995, killing 245 people. The last recorded Ebola outbreak was in Gabon in February 1997, which killed 10 people.

Researchers do not know where the virus comes from. But when it flares up, it kills humans so fast that outbreaks usually only last a few weeks.

Authorities were investigating the mysterious death recently of a Congolese woman married to a Ugandan soldier for a possible connection to the outbreak, the government-owned New Vision newspaper reported Saturday.

Ugandan troops supporting rebels in neighboring Congo have been returning to Gulu with them Congolese wives.