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Uganda Ebola cases fall steadily, death toll at 162
KAMPALA, Uganda (Reuters) -- An outbreak of Ebola fever in Uganda is fading fast with only two deaths reported in the past 11 days, taking the death toll to 162, officials said on Tuesday.
"It is very, very encouraging," said Alex Opio, the assistant commissioner for national disease control. "But we will not relax until we have had zero deaths for 42 days."
The deadly hemorrhagic virus, first identified in the northern district of Gulu in October, spread to two other districts before being contained.
Opio said between 250 and 300 people were still being monitored in Gulu district, and 150 in neighboring Masindi district where 15 people have died from the disease.
A third district has already been declared free of Ebola, after passing a 42-day deadline -- twice the length of the maximum incubation period -- with no new cases reported.
At the epidemic's peak in late October, hospitals in Gulu were admitting up to 17 new patients each day.
But the number of cases has fallen steadily since then as the government, with the help of the World Health Organization and other international agencies, launched a well-orchestrated public awareness campaign and stepped up medical care.
Teams of health workers have visited dozens of villages to track down those who had been in direct contact with the Ebola victims.
But Opio warned people in affected areas to remain vigilant over the Christmas period, when traditionally there is a lot of eating and drinking from shared bowls and cups.
Ebola, which first emerged in Zaire in 1976, is spread easily through human contact. Most of its victims die from shock after days of high fever, chest pains, vomiting and extensive internal bleeding.
The Ugandan outbreak is thought to have spread so fast initially because people at funerals of Ebola victims touched the body and shared food and cups, inadvertently passing the virus to each other.
"The country will remain on Ebola alert during the Christmas holiday," Opio said. "We have been stockpiling protective wear and medical supplies in all districts of the country."
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Number of Ebola victims reaches 400; 160 dead in Uganda
Ugandan Health Ministry
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