Uganda said on Wednesday that the country was free of the Ebola virus, which has killed 37 people since September when the virulent strain first appeared in the impoverished east African nation.
Health Minister Stephen Mallinga said it was the 42nd day since the last patient was discharged after the disease, obscured by ailments with near-similar symptoms, emerged mainly in western Uganda killing 37 out of 149 confirmed cases.
Advertisement"There has been no further transmission of the virus since the 8th of January 2008," Mallinga told a press conference here.
Mallinga said that Uganda's fight against Ebola was difficult since it was confirmed as a new kind of strain with far different characteristics than the previously known strain that hit the country in 2000.
"The disease presented in a very unusual manner, very different from the previous Ebola outbreaks. We were dealing with a new strain," he explained.
The government says 37 patients out of 149 Ebola patients died. Among the dead were six healthcare workers who died after handling infected patients, a result of poor hygiene and lack of protective gear.
Mallinga added that arrangements would be made to compensate the healthcare workers' families.
"We have learnt many lessons. These epidemics now appear to be too frequent. As part of the exit strategy capacities will be strengthened within our overall emergency preparedness and response strategy," Mallinga said.
Virologists believe the haemorrhagic fever, which can have a fatality rate of up to 90 percent of its patients if patients are not treated on time, erupted in September on the Uganda-Democratic Republic of Congo frontier.
Spread by body secretions, the blood-borne disease, Ebola was named after a small DRC river where it was discovered in 1976. It re-emerged in Sudan later the same year. Other outbreaks have been recorded in Ivory Coast, Gabon and Uganda.
In the previous outbreaks, the disease struck with initial ferocity causing massive fatalities, then faded away months later without leaving a hint where it came from. Experts are still seeking its footprints, if any.
Because of its scanty history, scientists have concluded that the strain is somewhat containable because it kills its victims faster than it can spread to new hosts.