Deadly Ebola Virus Kills Girl in Uganda

by Dr Sam Girgis on May 15, 2011

A 12 year old girl was reported to have been killed by the rare and deadly Ebola virus in Uganda.  The victim died at Bombo Military Hospital on May 6, which is 22 miles away from the capital city of Kampala.  The United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention helped in the initial analysis of the samples and in making the diagnosis.  Preliminary studies were carried out at the Uganda Virus Research Institute, and identified the virus to be part of the Sudanic strain.  This particular strain of the Ebola virus is known to have a 50-60 percent fatality rate.  There are about 33 other individuals who had been in contact with the girl, and are under close observation by health officials for signs or symptoms of the disease.  This is the first outbreak of the disease in over four years for the country of Uganda, but because of the lethality it is considered an epidemic.  During the last epidemic, the virus killed 37 people.  At that time, there was widespread panic among health officials and the general public because there is no known treatment and no vaccine available.  The president of Uganda had advised no hand shaking and cessation of the consumption of monkey meat.  Bats are thought to be the natural reservoir of the virus in the wild, which can pass on the virus to monkeys and humans.  Bats are thought to drop fruit onto the ground which is then eaten by chimpanzees, gorillas, or other primates and monkeys.  The virus is then transmitted to humans through body fluids when the carcasses of the primates are handled.  The virus is known to cause hemorrhagic fever because the victims usually bleed to death.  The pathogenesis of the virus is causes by disruption of the endothelial cells which line the inside of blood vessels.  The virus also interferes with coagulation, or the clotting of blood.  The initial phase of the illness is characterized by fever, malaise, muscle pain, headache, and a sore throat.  The next phase is characterized by nausea, vomiting, and bloody diarrhea that is associated with a maculopapular rash.  The virus was named after the location where the first recognized outbreak occurred in the Ebola River Valley in the Democratic Republic of Congo in 1976.  There have been numerous outbreaks and epidemics following the initial discovery of the virus.  Since there is no specific treatment other than supportive care, prevention of the disease through proper handling of infected fluids is critical.

Reference:

Malone, Barry “Ebola Kills Girl in Uganda, More Cases Expected” Reuters, May 14, 2011.

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