Saturday, December 15, 2007

Safe and Sound in Kampala

Western Uganda has been fighting the Ebola virus since August. Rumor has it the severity of the issue was kept quiet until after CHOGM-no need to worry the Queen or make Uganda look bad, etc-but who knows what really happened. In any case, I've been assuring concerned friends and relatives all is well in Kampala, at least, and I am safe from not just Ebola, but also the plague (also in the west) and yellow fever (in the north).

The American embassy in Kampala just emailed this out to all registered U.S. citizens here. I'm not sure if it makes me more scared or more reassured. (Note that before this I wasn't really concerned at all.)

Ebola - Frequently Asked Questions

1. Can I get Ebola while riding on public transportation?

People can only be exposed to Ebola virus from direct contact with the blood and/or excretions and secretions of an infected person. The virus is often spread through families and friends because they come in close contact with such body fluids when caring for infected persons or during washing the body of the deceased for burial.

It is highly unlikely that you would contract Ebola from riding on public transportation unless the person next to you was visibly ill, with profuse bleeding or sweating. You are far more likely to contract respiratory illnesses such as tuberculosis or influenza when riding public transportation than contracting Ebola.

If Ebola were easily contractible from public transport, the number of infected cases would be much higher than it currently is.

2. Will the government or the airlines restrict my ability to travel outside Uganda?

As of this time, there are no travel restrictions imposed by the GOU or any of the national or international airlines. There is no rapid test for Ebola and a certificate of wellness only indicates someone does not have a fever at the time they were seen by the healthcare provider. Likewise, the U.S. Government has placed no ban on travel, either into or out of the United States.

3. Has Ebola been confirmed in any district outside of Bundibugyo?

Not as of this time. The CDC has set up a testing center to test blood samples within Uganda. The only samples that have come back positive for Ebola are in the Bundibugyo district, although additional suspected cases are being identified and tested on a daily basis. To date, there has been one Ebola case in Kampala, although the individual was infected in Bundibugyo District and when he experienced symptoms he immediately checked himself into the isolation ward at Mulago Hospital.

4. I've heard this is a new strain of Ebola. How does the CDC know it's checking for the right illness in its testing?

In November, the CDC identified this new strain of Ebola, which at this time appears to be less lethal than previous strains, with a lower mortality rate among infected persons. The testing lab set up at Uganda Virus Research Institute is set up to identify any strain of Ebola.

5. How can I avoid getting ill with Ebola?

One of the most important preventive practices is careful and frequent hand washing. Cleaning your hands often, using soap and water (or waterless alcohol-based hand rubs when soap is not available), removes potentially infectious materials from your skin and helps prevent disease transmission.

Avoid contact with dead animals, especially primates.

Do not eat "bush meat" (wild animals, including primates, sold for consumption as food in local markets).

If you are required to personally care for an ill person with an unknown illness or suspected Ebola, use barrier techniques. These precautions include wearing protective gowns, gloves, and masks, in addition to eye protection to limit your exposure to blood and body secretions. Transport the person immediately to a health-care provider, limiting your contact with others. Notify the health-care facility you are transporting someone potentially infected with Ebola.

Sterilization and proper disposal of needles and equipment, appropriate handling and disposal of bedding, and proper disposal of patient excretions are also important to prevent the spread of infection.


Fango said...

There goes your plan for the Chimpanzee Taxidermy service, eh? Yowzers. Cuidense.

geraldean said...

Yes, I would say the moral here is "Avoid contact with dead animals, especially primates"