February 23, 2024

‘Strange’ disease rages on in Uganda, 10 dead

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The death toll from a raging ‘strange’ disease outbreak in Kyotera district has reached 10.  The latest victim is Francis Mugema, a Kijonjo parish councilor, who passed away on Friday last week.

The rare disease was first reported in Nakatoke B village, Kijonjo parish, Kasasa sub-county where it killed a 45-year-old farmer within five days after developing painful swellings on the neck, face, chest, skin, and hypothermia.

It is now six months since the outbreak was reported in Kijonjo A, Kijonjo B, Nakatoke A, and Nakatoke B villages, Kijonjo parish in Kasasa sub-county. An infected person presents with fever, swellings, abdominal and chest pain, vomiting, and general body weakness and die within a week.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) and the Ministry of Health are jointly investigating the unknown illness to establish the cause of the death. According to Dr. Janefrancis Zalwango, the Masaka Regional WHO epidemiologist, they initially thought it was Ebola, Marburg, Crimean Congo Hemorrhagic Fever (CCHF), and Rift Valley Fever (RVF).

He says that they sent samples to Uganda Virus Research Institute (UVRI) -Entebbe which tested negative. As of November 2021, a total of 13 deaths had been registered by the investigating teams and nine of them had unknown causes but with similar signs and symptoms. Alex Kakeeto, the Kasasa sub-county chief under the Mengo administration, says that they are working with the district and health authorities to contain the disease.

Dr. Edward Muwanga, the Kyotera District Health Officer, says that they are working with WHO and different health teams to get to the bottom of the problem. A December 4, 2021, Outbreak Investigation Report indicates that residents in the affected communities took it for witchcraft and have already sought help from various traditional healers.

It further adds that the failure to seek medical attention could contribute to more deaths if no interventions are designed to curb the situation.  Still, it was established that several residents abandoned their homes claiming that the village is haunted by a deadly spell.

In the meantime, Zalwango recommends that all cases identified in the affected communities be isolated immediately for proper management by skilled health care workers. She has appealed to district health teams to actively follow up contacts regularly for identification of those that develop symptoms for isolation.

URN has learnt that there were more than five people in Kijonjo, who contracted the disease but they were treated and recovered. Apparently, there is a 14-year-old patient under strict medical supervision at Masaka Regional Referral Hospital.

The health workers at the regional referral, say they took samples off the patient and they are still waiting for the results to determine the next course of action.

Source: URN


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