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Ebola Infected Bodies Can Transmit Disease a Week after Death- Expert

The arrival of a body of a 22-year-old student suspected to have succumbed to Ebola hemorrhagic fever created panic in Namulonge on Tuesday as Ministry of Health burial teams don in full Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) disembarked from a Pickup vehicle that delivered the body.

Mourners who were in crowds and hadn’t conducted any hand hygiene at the entrance as required to prevent transmission were seen fleeing the home giving way to the burial teams that spent under 30 minutes at the site. The deceased who had been admitted at Kasangati Health Center IV was not confirmed as an Ebola case by the time of the burial.

But the Ministry of Health says all suspected Ebola cases are going to be subjected to special burial going forward. According to Emmanuel Ainebyoona, the Senior Public Relations Officer at the Ministry, they resolved to do this to minimize transmission risk in an event that samples eventually turn out positive.

Dr Stephen Ataro Ayella, a Clinical Epidemiologist says coming into contact with a body of a confirmed Ebola case or even a suspect puts one at risk of infection. He explains that the body can transmit the disease for up to a week as long as blood is still flowing.

Ayella who was also among the medical workers that Uganda sent to West Africa to help with the Ebola epidemic in 2014 says tests on suspected Ebola dead bodies are conducted by removing a sample from their throats. 

However, Ainebyoona says the ministry has been receiving several other alerts from different parts of Kampala and the neighbouring Wakiso but none of them has tested positive. The Ministry of Health figures indicate that by Tuesday morning, the outbreak had been confirmed in three districts of Kassanda, Mubende and Kyegegwa where samples tested positive.

Six cases were newly confirmed bringing the total to 24.  The cumulative confirmed deaths are still five, although, eighteen other deaths occurred before tests could be conducted and surveillance teams were only alerted after burial. Oral reports from Mubende district indicate these had symptoms consistent with the viral hemorrhagic fever just as the one that was buried today.  

While URN couldn’t obtain information regarding the deceased from health workers at Kasangati, Tom Muwonge, the LC III Chairperson of Kasangati Town Council says the deceased was referred to Kasangati from a private health centre in Maganjo. When he arrived, the chairperson said he was in a critical state.

However, the deceased’s relatives and the Boda-Boda Cyclist who transferred them to Kasangati have since been quarantined. Although, Health Minister later said this morning that the results of the deceased have come out negative.

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