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Ebola patients bounce back to good health but suffer stigma

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John Mugabi, 35, was a prosperous farmer and businessman dealing in agricultural produce. The resident of Butumba B LCI, Nyanseke Parish in Muhorro Town Council, had largely had a healthy and happy life with his family.

However, an illness that struck on the afternoon of July 29 changed the course of his life. Mr Mugabi developed high fever. A few hours later he began vomiting and suffered intense stomach pains. “When I was taken to Kagadi Hospital, I was put in an isolation ward,” he said as he rested his cheek on his left hand.

Luckily, he was one of the more than 50 patients who were admitted with clinical signs similar to those of Ebola disease but turned negative.

Instead of receiving warm reception from their communities, the more than 40 patients are being shunned. “Some people still fear to socialise with me. They fear that I may have Ebola” Mugabi says. “Whenever I go to buy goods, people run away from me. My businesses are suffering.”
He was discharged together with his children Costa Mugabi, 9, Businge Mugabi,5, and Geoffrey Kaija,7.

The District Health Officer, Dr Dan Kyamanywa, said his office has registered some cases where former patients are stigmatised and discriminated against. “The reception of these people varies. In some areas they get no problems while in a few other places, communities are in fear and anxious. They shun them,” Dr Kyamanywa said.

The worst stigma is being experienced in Kakindo and Muhorro sub-counties. “For instance, when they go for shopping, at times some shop attendants close the shop and flee,” Dr Kyamanywa revealed.

The district Ebola taskforce has also registered cases where businesses of people who have been discharged are shunned by customers.

Dr Kyamanywa said the district authorities have now embarked on sensitisation drives on radios and in communities to reduced such incidents. Those being discharged are accompanied by a team comprised of counselors, social workers and medical staff to re-unite them with their respective families.

Meanwhile the Ministry of Health has said the disease is increasingly coming under control with no new case reported in the last 13 days. So far 49 patients have been discharged from the isolation facility of Kagadi Hospital after testing negative to Ebola. However, more people continue to be followed up, investigated and discharged after receiving treatment for other ailments.

The disease has claimed 16 lives. Last week, the Ministry of Health re-opened Kagadi Hospital to resume normal operations as the ministry said the disease was under control. Though no new cases have been registered in Kibaale, the district said it is still taking precaution. The schools are still closed and market day banned.

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