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Ugandan officials, international experts tackle Ebola outbreak that's left 14 dead

By the CNN Wire Staff
updated 10:11 PM EDT, Sun July 29, 2012
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • NEW: WHO and CDC experts are in Kibaale near the outbreak's center, WHO says
  • The lethal Ebola virus left at least 14 people dead in midwestern Uganda this month
  • Patients did not show some typical symptoms, the health minister says
  • The Ebola virus is considered a highly infectious disease spread through direct contact

(CNN) -- Ugandan authorities did not initially detect an Ebola outbreak because patients weren't showing typical symptoms of the lethal virus, the nation's health minister told CNN on Sunday.

Patients had fevers and were vomiting, but did not show other typical symptoms like hemorrhaging, Health Minister Dr. Christine Ondoa said.

A team made up of personnel from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Ugandan health ministry and the World Health Organization early Monday were in Kibaale, a district in the midwestern part of the landlocked central African nation, WHO said in a statement.

Medecins Sans Frontieres, also known as Doctors Without Borders, also is involved in setting up an "isolation center" at Kibaale's hospital.

National health authorities say the outbreak has infected at least 20 people, of whom 14 have died. Nine of the deaths were from a single household in the village of Nyanswiga, according to WHO.

A medic who was treating victims is among the dead, Ondoa said.

Officials are trying to determine the extent of the outbreak, CDC spokesman Tom Skinner said Sunday. The Atlanta-based organization was sending about five people to join a group of CDC staffers who are permanently based in Uganda, according to the spokesman.

"These outbreaks have a tendency to stamp themselves out, if you will, if we can get in and ... stop the chain of transmission," he said.

Ondoa described the Ebola-Sudan strain detected as "mild" compared to other types of Ebola, noting that victims' lives can be saved with intervention.

The cases have emerged in Kibaale, where a national task force had been mobilized in an effort to combat the outbreak.

As of early Monday in Uganda, two people with the virus remained hospitalized in stable condition, said WHO. One was a 38-year-old woman who'd attended to her sister, the medic who died, and another was a 30-year-old woman who participated in the burial of one of the other victims.

The Ebola virus is considered a highly infectious disease spread through direct contact with bodily fluids, with symptoms that include fever, vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal pain, headache, measles-like rash, red eyes and at times bleeding from body openings.

Health officials urged the public to report suspected cases and avoid contact with anyone who has contracted the virus and to disinfect the bedding and clothing of an infected person by using protective gloves and masks.

Officials also advised against eating dead animals, especially monkeys, and to avoid public gatherings in the affected district.

Given these precautions, WHO said in its statement that it would not recommend any travel restrictions to Uganda because of the Ebola outbreak.

An explainer on Ebola

CNN's Nick Valencia, David Ariosto, Nana Karikari-apau, Jennifer Deaton and Miriam Falco contributed to this report.

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