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Uganda confirms Ebola death far from outbreak site

KAMPALA, Uganda (Reuters) -- The Ebola fever epidemic that has killed 80 people in northern Uganda has now spread to the far south of the country with a confirmed death in the town of Mbarara, health officials said Wednesday.

A soldier who had been based at the army barracks in Gulu, the center of the epidemic, became ill after moving to the barracks in Mbarara, said Sam Okware, director general for health services in Uganda's Ministry of Health.

"He was in quite bad shape, and there was a high degree of suspicion it might be Ebola," Okware said. "We took some samples from him to Gulu, to the CDC (Centers for Disease Control) mobile lab, which confirmed he was antigen positive."

The soldier died last Friday in Mbarara University Hospital, the main hospital in the area, about five days after showing typical Ebola symptoms of high fever, abdominal pain and diarrhea, Okware said.

Despite many earlier false alarms, that was the first confirmed case outside the northern district of Gulu, where the deadly Ebola virus has killed 80 people since the outbreak began in September.

Earlier in the day, health officials said they believed the disease had been brought under control, and that the death rate was falling in Gulu district, where 250 cases have been reported.

But the death in the busy commercial town of Mbarara, 265 miles (424 kilometers) south of Gulu and about 25 miles (40 kilometers) north of the Tanzanian border, will heighten concerns about the disease spreading farther.

Okware said a team from the Health Ministry was on its way to Mbarara, and he had asked for help from the World Health Organization (WHO) and the medical relief agency, Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF).

Copyright 2000 Reuters. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.



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