Uganda’s Ministry of Health Denies Any Evidence of an Ebola Outbreak

Definition of denialism: Rejection of basic facts and concepts that are undisputed, well-supported parts of the scientific consensus on the subject, in favor of radical or controversial ideas.

The Daily Monitor reports that minister in charge, Sarah Opendi, believes there is no evidence that supports an Ebola outbreak.

“We would like to inform the public that there is no Ebola outbreak in [central] Mubende district or any other part of the country.” Opendi stated.

A 35-year-old man was recently admitted to a hospital in the western Uganda region of Kakumira. He was suffering from a high fever and vomiting, both symptoms of Ebola. Two days later he died.

The minister said that the man was infected with Crimean-Congo Hemorrhagic Fever (CCHF), not Ebola. For reference, Ebola is a type of hemorrhagic fever.

Reports from The Daily Monitor states that samples from the deceased body were sent to the Uganda Virus Research Institute (UVRI).

“The attendants of the deceased who included his expectant wife and four others were immediately quarantined and they are closely being monitored,” Opendi said, “To mitigate any possible exposure from contact with the suspect, all material used by the deceased, including a trolley and beddings used by the deceased were burnt.”

Ebola Hemorrhagic Fever is a highly contagious disease that was first discovered in 1976. Its mortality rate is 53 percent with some strains having a rate of 88 percent. Symptoms include fever, headache, muscle pain and chills. Infected individuals later experience internal bleeding resulting in vomiting or coughing blood.

Future preventative measures have been taken to suppress the spread of CCHF.

Denialism of Ebola or downplaying the seriousness of the virus has been a common occurrence since its discovery. Similarly to the denialism of HIV/AIDS, it arises out of ignorance and fear.

Even with statistics that proved that some 40 percent of the population was presently infected with AIDS, recently re-elected South African President (at the time), Thabo Mbeki, was adamant that the AIDS ‘epidemic’ was by no means a crisis in his country.  

The denial of basic facts can be attributed to wanting to maintain a good international perception. Having a viral outbreak appears to make countries look less-advanced or lacking in necessities. However, rejecting the issue even exists makes matters much worse. When President Mbeki told his citizens they had nothing to fear, many of them believed him; they were not cautious, and the spread of contagion multiplied.

According to the World Health Organization, officials in Sierra Leone and Liberia denied the severity of the virus in 2014, resulting in more cases and deaths. Since citizens were not given the proper information, they did not know how to properly protect themselves from the outbreak.

It is common for denialism to arise during traumatic events. A guardian story explains:

“The disease has also revealed alarming mistrust between citizens and public office holders in a region with shocking corruption levels.

Ebola was initially viewed as a government conspiracy to depopulate Sierra Leone’s Kailahun district, and fierce resistance to the arrival of health workers culminated in the stoning of a Doctors Without Borders vehicle. In Liberia, many remain adamant the outbreak is a hoax from government officials seeking to distract from a series of recent scandals, or for health officials to rake in public funds.”

Uganda’s neighboring country of The Democratic Republic of The Congo has 56 reported cases of hemorrhagic fever. There are 35 confirmed cases of Ebola, 13 probable and 8 suspected.

Live, chemeric vaccinations to DRC began last week after 26 were reported dead.

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