Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni tells the nation to avoid handshakes and promiscuous behaviour, to help fight the Ebola virus.
KAMPALA, UGANDA (JULY 30, 2012) (REUTERS) -Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni on Monday (July 30) advised people to avoid shaking hands, casual sex and do-it-yourself burials to reduce the chance of contracting the deadly Ebola virus after an outbreak killed 14 people and put many more at risk.
Museveni's advice came as scared patients and health workers fled a district hospital in rural western Uganda where several cases of Ebola were being treated and as the authorities tried to alter people's behaviour to stop the virus spreading.
With some Ugandans blaming the illness on "evil spirits", President Yoweri Museveni made a public appeal for people to avoid some forms of personal contact.
"Ebola should be handled by medical personnel wearing protective gear, when you handle this case well, you can eliminate Ebola quickly, this is what happened in Luwero about six months ago, a girl contracted Ebola and she died in Bombo military hospital, however the medical staff from the beginning had been suspicious and handled her carefully there was no spread from that sickness. I want to salute the doctors of Luwero for having detected that sickness in time so I therefore appeal to you to be vigilant, avoid shaking of hands, do not take on burying somebody who has died of symptoms which look like Ebola, instead call health workers to be the ones to do it and avoid promiscuity because this sickness can also go though sex," Museveni said in a televised presidential address.
There is no treatment or vaccine against Ebola, which is transmitted by close contact and body fluids such as saliva, vomit, diarrhoea, sweat, semen and blood.
Infected people remain contagious even when dead, compounding the problem of burying the bodies.
Of the 14 people reported to have died so far in the outbreak initially confirmed on Friday (July 27), one was a local health worker, Clare Muhumuza. She had been transferred to Mulago hospital in Kampala where she died, raising fears the disease could spread in the Ugandan capital.
Museveni said health workers suspect the disease broke out about three weeks ago in Nyanswiga village, but doctors thought the symptoms were atypical of Ebola.
"The ministry of health people are tracing all the people that have had contacts with the victims, they have for instance put under quarantine all the seven doctors that dealt with one of the people who came to Mulago hospital and died there as well as the thirteen health workers who were accompanying them, they are following up all the cases, up to now 14 people have died from this Ebola."
Ebola was last reported in Uganda in May last year when it killed a 12-year-old girl.
The country's most devastating outbreak was in 2000 when 425 people were infected, more than half of whom died.
This time the outbreak started in Kibaale district, about 170 km (100 miles) west of the capital Kampala, near the Democratic Republic of Congo where the virus emerged in 1976, taking its name from the Ebola River.
The symptoms of Ebola include sudden onset of fever, intense weakness, muscle pain, headache and sore throat, followed by vomiting, diarrhoea, rashes, impaired kidney and liver function and both internal and external bleeding.