Local cultural requirements may be the reason for three isolated cases of Ebola in Uganda. Even though the border region is a tourism transportation center, visitors are not in danger by the recent Ebola outbreak according to tourism officials in Uganda.
The three victims are within the same family that followed rules of an ancient local tradition. A local custom to honor the deceased by touching them before their funerals is most likely the reason Uganda is struggling with three cases of Ebola.
A 5-year-old boy crossed into Uganda from the DRC on June 9 after attending his grandfathers funeral. According to sources, the grandfather passed away after falling sick on Ebola. Cultural rules in some East and West African countries expect those honoring the death of a close relative to touch the corpse before burial. The young boy who became sick and later died touched the dead body of his grandfather along with his brother and grandmother attending the funeral. Today it was announced his younger brother and his grandmother were also infected and the 5-year-old boy died today.
Ebola victims are most infectious right after death—which means that African burial practices, where families touch the bodies, can spread the disease. In the remains of a deceased victim, Ebola lives on. Tears, saliva, urine, blood—all are inundated with a lethal viral load that threatens to steal any life it touches. Fluids outside the body (and in death, there are many) are highly contagious. According to the World Health Organization, they remain so for at least three days.
As of June 12, the Ugandan Ministry of Health has confirmed three cases of Ebola in western Uganda near the border with the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The United States has strong confidence in the Ugandan government’s ability to respond to the outbreak in coordination with partners. The U.S. government has invested heavily in Uganda’s preparations to manage Ebola through both technical and financial assistance, and we will continue to provide assistance to prevent the spread of the disease.
For updates on the situation, we encourage you to follow the Ugandan Ministry of Health as well as the World Health Organization’s Ebola situation reports.