Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni has ordered traditional healers to stop treating sick people in a bid to halt the spread of Ebola, which has already claimed the lives of 19 individuals.
In a televised address to the nation, he used the most widely spoken Ugandan language, telling spiritual healers and herbal healers not to get involved in trying to treat people suspected of contracting Ebola. He also ordered security services working alongside health officials to arrest people suspected of having the virus who refuse to be excluded from further investigation.
This follows the death of a 45-year-old man who was listed by health officials as having tested positive for Ebola.
The man, who died in a Kampala hospital on October 7, fled from his village in Mubende district, the epicenter of the outbreak, sought medical attention from a traditional head in another province, before arriving at the hospital in the capital. He died after nearly ten hours of hospitalization, authorities say. Some of the man’s family members have been placed under quarantine, while others hid from medical staff. The president asked them to report to health facilities.
Although Museveni said there are currently no confirmed cases of Ebola in Kampala, he warned the public to remain vigilant, and gave assurances that health workers would contain the epidemic.
“Witchdoctors, traditionalists and herbalists should not accept sick people now. Suspend what you are doing. There is no witchcraft here. Ebola is a disease. The communities in the affected areas should know Ebola is deadly and spread through contacts with the affected person,” Museveni said.
It has been almost a month since the Ebola outbreak was declared in Uganda, which has spread to five districts. So far, 54 people have been confirmed to have the virus, with 19 deaths recorded. 20 people, including five medical staff, have recovered.
The World Health Organization chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said that clinical trials could start within weeks on drugs to combat the particular strain circulating in Uganda known as the Sudan ebola virus, for which there is currently no vaccine.