The Uganda Red Cross Society has sent an assessment team to Bundibugyo District as part of a Ministry of Health initiative to contain the deadly Ebola hemorrhagic disease. Using 100 volunteers who had previously worked to contain Ebola in Gulu district in 2000, the Red Cross project will involve door-to-door sessions to identify suspected cases and report them to the Ministry of Health. The volunteers will also educate the community about the disease and to ensure that suspected cases will be successfully reintegrated into the community and not face the discrimination and stigma that such individuals have faced in the past.
First identified in 1976 following simultaneous outbreaks in Sudan and Zaire, Ebola hemorrhagic disease is transferred through direct human or animal contact. It is classified as a biosafety level 4 infectious agent and a Category A bioterrorism agent. Symptoms vary and can include high fever, severe headaches, muscle pain. No approved vaccine is yet available and treatment primarily focuses on early identification and isolation of suspected cases. In the latest outbreak in Uganda, there have been at least 16 out of a suspected 58 cases. The last major outbreak in the Congo in 1996 killed 245 people.