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Thursday, 23 November, 2000, 14:54 GMT
Ebola test for Uganda's wildlife
Rat and Bat
Uganda's rats and bats could be Ebola reservoirs
South African scientists will examine Ugandan wildlife in an attempt to discover whether animals and birds served as reservoirs for the deadly Ebola virus.

Uganda's health ministry spokesman, Paul Kaggwa, said experts from the South African National Institute of Virology are to conduct tests on bats, rats and birds to see whether the virus is passed from wildlife to humans.

An Ebola suspect being assisted to a local hospital
Ebola spreads through human contact
Scientists have yet to discover where the virus resides when it is not infecting humans.

Ebola, which can cause its victims to bleed to death, is spread through contact with infected bodily fluids. It has no known cure.

The outbreak of the disease in Uganda in mid-September killed 115 people and infected another 210.

Officials say the spread of the disease has been contained, with just 13 people still hospitalised.

Ebola toll

"The South Africans have expressed interest to come and look at these potential reservoirs (for the virus), which include bats and rats," said Mr Kaggwa.


He said the South Africans would carry out tests in Gulu - the area worst hit by the epidemic - and outside the district, and then compare the results.

Experts from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the World Health Organisation and Médecins sans Frontières have been in Uganda to help contain the disease.

The previous recorded outbreak of Ebola was in Gabon in 1997 when it killed 10 people, but the highest toll was in 1995 when over 200 people died in the town of Kikwit in the DR Congo - formerly Zaire.

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See also:

31 Jul 00 | Health
Breakthrough on Ebola
02 Mar 00 | Sci/Tech
Ebola cure possible
16 Aug 99 | Medical notes
Ebola and other tropical viruses
18 Oct 00 | Health
Africa's emerging virus threat
20 Oct 00 | Africa
In pictures: When Ebola struck
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