Ebola Strikes 400 in Uganda

:Ebola Strikes 400 in Uganda

@KAMPLA, Uganda-Doctors in Central Africa are still hesitant to take a deep breath, but the Ebola outbreak they have been fighting since September may be weakening.

With now more than 400 people infected in Uganda, researchers say the virus has been contained to three districts. More than 160 victims have died in Gulu, Masindi, and Mbarara. However, new cases aren't pouring into hospitals as they have been in the past, giving Ugandan officials a much-needed break. With the rate of new cases dropping, there are no expected travel restrictions during the holiday season.

One of the hardest hit groups in the region was healthcare workers. With more than 26 infected by the virus, 13 have died including 11 nurses, one doctor, and a clinical officer. Two nurses and one doctor are currently battling the virus.

Ebola is new to Uganda, although not to the region. The first outbreak occurred in 1976 in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, formerly Zaire. During the last 25 years, the virus has sporadically appeared and infected people in Gabon, Sudan, the Ivory Coast and now Uganda.

Scientists at the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) report four strains of Ebola, with three of them causing human illness. Ebola is one of the two members of a family of RNA viruses called Filoviridae. The Ebola-Zaire, Ebola-Sudan, and Ebola-Ivory Coast strains have keep researchers on their toes, looking for the viruses' exact origin and natural habitat.

Scientists believe the virus is zoonotic, or animal-borne. A person could become infected by being exposed to an infected animal's blood.

Ebola-Reston was discovered in Virginia. This strain is only in nonhuman primates. The virus was found in monkeys imported from the Philippines. Several healthcare workers were infected with the Reston strain, but did not fall ill.

Controlling the outbreak in Africa is often difficult for healthcare workers because of nosocomial transmission. Nurses and doctors care for infected patients without wearing the necessary mask, gown, and gloves. Exposure to the virus is common when healthcare workers do not wear the necessary PPE..

The CDC reports that infected needles and syringes are at times reused, further spreading the disease.

Symptoms of Ebola can vary from blindness, chest pain, shock, vomiting to rashes.

Information from the Associated Press and www.cdc.gov.