No new cases of Ebola hemorrhagic fever have been reported since Dec. 23, 2007 in Bundibugyo district, Western Uganda. Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) teams, who have been taking care of Ebola patients in the area since early December, have therefore good reason to hope this short but acute epidemic is coming to an end. The latest figures show that 148 people have contracted the disease since the first cases were reported early last August. Of those, 37 have died over a period of a few weeks. Authorities only officially declared the epidemic on Nov. 28. Ebola, as well as Marburg fever, are highly contagious hemorrhagic fevers for which there is no specific treatment. They are thought to be transmitted through the ingestion of bush meat, monkey meat in the case of Ebola. These monkeys may have been infected themselves by a healthy carrier, probably a bat. The MSF intervention, which first focused on the isolation of patients and an active search for sick people who had been in touch with confirmed cases, has been very efficient. Less than a month after the start of the intervention, it seems that the chains of transmission of the Ebola virus have actually been broken. On Jan. 8, one of the two isolation units set up by MSF in Kykio was dismantled and completely decontaminated. Kikyo is a few kilometres away from Bundibugyo, the district's main town, where the epidemic seems to have started. As of today, only one patient remains under observation in the other isolation unit set up in Bundibugyo's hospital. There is a strong possibility this patient was not infected by Ebola. The MSF teams, composed of approximately 20 international and 60 Ugandan staff, will progressively reduce their activities while continuing to transfer their know-how to national healthcare staff. The aim is to increase local capacity in diagnosing the disease and to provide a quicker response and care to patients. The maximum incubation period for Ebola is 21 days. According to international recommendations, the end of the epidemic can only be declared after a two periods of 21 days each with no new cases declaring themselves, beginning from the day the last case was isolated. However, after the first period of 21 days, the area may be considered free of Ebola. This date, which is set as Jan. 12, is much awaited by the local population of this mountainous region at the edge of the Ugandan Rwenzori region. Understandably, Ebola is an extremely feared disease there. Meanwhile, MSF staff continue their activities, including counselling victims' families, training medical staff and conducting epidemiological research to verify the virus' transmission chains have indeed been broken.

Related Information :

FIELD BLOG — Read Zoe's continuing diary entries about Ebola in DRC 19 September 2007 — BLOG : Diary of Zoe Young, water and sanitation specialist with MSF 14 September 2007 — "Ebola: no antidote, no cure, all emphasis on isolating the infected" 12 September 2007 — "DR Congo: Ebola virus confirmed in Kasai"