Uganda warns traditional healers not to treat sick people after Ebola outbreak

A total of 19 people have died from the disease in the East African country so far

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Uganda has ordered traditional healers to stop treating sick people to try to halt the spread of Ebola.

Nineteen people have so far died from the disease in the East African country.

“Witch doctors, traditionalists and herbalists should not accept sick people now. Suspend what you are doing,” Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni said in a televised speech on Wednesday.

“There is no witchcraft here. Ebola is a disease. The communities in the affected areas should know Ebola is deadly and spreads through contact with the affected person.”

He said security officials should arrest anyone suspected of contracting the haemorrhagic fever if they will not to go into isolation.

World Health Organisation chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said on Wednesday that clinical trials could start within weeks on vaccines to combat the Sudan strain of the disease, which is behind a deadly outbreak in Uganda.

In September, Uganda announced its first death from the highly contagious disease since 2019.

The WHO said there were 54 confirmed cases and 19 deaths since the outbreak was first reported in the central district of Mubende on September 20.

Mr Museveni said one fatal case had been recorded in Kampala. A man, 45, of Congolese origin fled isolation in Mubende after a relative died before seeking help from a witch doctor.

The man died of the disease in a hospital in the capital, Mr Museveni said. He said about 24 people who had been in contact with the man were now in quarantine.

Since the initial outbreak in the largely rural landlocked country, infections have been found in five areas including Mubende, according to the WHO.

“Unfortunately, the Ebola vaccines that have been so effective in controlling recent outbreaks in DRC [Democratic Republic of Congo] are not effective against the type of Ebola virus which is responsible for the current outbreak in Uganda,” Mr Tedros told a regional ministerial meeting to discuss the emergency response to the crisis.

“Several vaccines are in various stages of development against this virus, two of which could begin clinical trials in Uganda in the coming weeks, pending regulatory and ethics approvals from the Ugandan government.”

Ebola is named after a river in DRC where it was discovered in 1976. Human transmission is through bodily fluids, with common symptoms being fever, vomiting, bleeding and diarrhoea. Outbreaks are difficult to contain, especially in urban environments.

People who are infected do not become contagious until symptoms appear, which is after an incubation period of between two and 21 days.

The worst epidemic in West Africa killed more than 11,300 people between 2013 and 2016.

Uganda has had several Ebola outbreaks, most recently in 2019 when at least five people died.

Updated: October 13, 2022, 7:37 AM
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