KAMPALA, Uganda (HPD) — Six children in the Ugandan capital have tested positive for Ebola, the health minister said Wednesday, marking a sharp worsening of the outbreak that was declared just over a month ago.
The children, pupils from three different schools in Kampala, are among at least 15 people in the city confirmed to have contracted the disease, according to a statement from Health Minister Jane Ruth Aceng.
The children are members of a family that was exposed to the disease by a man who traveled from a district with high Ebola rates, sought treatment in Kampala, and died there, the statement said.
“He is responsible for infecting the seven members of the family, including neighbors and many others,” the statement said, referring to the patient who traveled infected. “We were able to find this group, and another one, due to the ministry’s follow-up in contact tracing and handling of field cases.”
Authorities are “following up” about 170 contacts from the schools attended by the six children, the agency said.
Fears that Ebola could spread beyond the epicenter of the outbreak have prompted authorities to impose a lockdown that includes curfews in two of the five districts that reported cases of the disease on Oct. 16. The measures were implemented after a man infected with Ebola traveled to Kampala and died in the capital, becoming the first confirmed case of the disease in the city.
Contact tracing is key to slowing the spread of contagious diseases like Ebola.
Ebola, which manifests itself as a viral hemorrhagic fever, has infected 109 people and killed 30 since Sept. 20, when an outbreak was declared several days after the disease began spreading in a rural community in the central Uganda.
There is no proven vaccine for the Sudanese strain of Ebola currently circulating in Uganda, an East African nation of 45 million people.