Ebola Virus Outbreak in Uganda July 2012 is a Cause for Concern

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Home / Ebola Virus Outbreak in Uganda July 2012 is a Cause for Concern

Ebola Virus particles which cause Hemorrhagic Fever. Image by Thomas W. Geisbert, Boston University School of Medicine

The deadly Ebola Hemorrhagic Fever (Ebola HF) virus claimed a total of 16 lives since the outbreak began in western Uganda in the first week of July 2012, according to World Health Organization reports, but there were no incidents of the infection spreading in the capital, Kampala.

Ebola, one of the world’s most virulent diseases, is spread through close personal contact. Uganda’s President Museveni has said that health officials are trying to trace people who were in contact with victims so that they could be quarantined – but is the potential for a worldwide Ebola outbreak, such as the one dramatized in the movie Outbreak with Dustin Hoffman, really possible?

About the Ebola Virus

Ebola HF is a fatal disease in humans and primates that has appeared intermittently since its initial recognition in 1976.

The disease is caused by Ebola virus, named after a river in the Democratic Republic of the Congo in Africa, where it was first recognized in 1976.

The virus is an RNA virus classified as the Filoviridae.

There are five identified subtypes of Ebola virus, and four of the five cause disease in humans: Ebola-Zaire, Ebola-Sudan, Ebola-Ivory Coast and Ebola-Bundibugyo. The fifth, Ebola-Reston affects nonhuman primates.

Ebola virus incidents in Africa

Ebola virus incidents in Central Africa 1979-2008 Image by Zach Orecchio

Where has Ebola Been Identified?

Confirmed cases of Ebola HF have been reported in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Gabon, Sudan, the Ivory Coast, Uganda, and the Republic of the Congo. Check the map for specific locations and additional details regarding outbreaks from 1979 through 2008.

How Does the Ebola Infection Spread?

Ebola HF appears in sporadic outbreaks, often in a health-care setting. Isolated cases do occur, but are often unrecognized. In the case of the current outbreak, the symptoms of the disease were not immediately recognized as Ebola, which may have increased the spread potential of the outbreak. Infections with Ebola virus are acute, and lack a carrier state. The natural reservoir of the virus is unknown, however researchers believe the initial infection is through contact with an infected animal.

After the initial infection, human victims are exposed to Ebola virus through direct contact with the blood of an infected person. The virus is spread through families and friends, or other situations in which people are in close contact with the secretions of an infected person and contaminated objects such as needles.

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