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Uganda says three dead in new Ebola outbreak near Kampala

KAMPALA (Reuters) - Uganda said on Thursday three people had died from an outbreak of the Ebola virus in its central region, near the capital Kampala, the latest bout of deadly haemorrhagic fevers to strike the east African nation in recent months.

Health Minister Christine Ondoa said two of the dead were from one family in Luwero district, about 75 kilometers north of Kampala.

The new outbreak comes about a month after Uganda declared itself free of Ebola which struck in July in the western part of the country, close to the border with the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), where the disease first occurred in 1976.

On October 19 health officials also reported an outbreak of Marbug, a deadly viral disease known to be a cousin of Ebola, that killed three people.

"Another viral haemorrhagic fever, Ebola, has broken out in the country ... a total of three people have since the onset of the outbreak died," Ondoa told reporters.

The first case involved a driver of a Boda Boda - motorcycle taxis common in Uganda - who died on October 25 while the second victim, a 25-year old woman who nursed the driver, died on November 10. Lab tests have not yet been completed on the third case.

Ebola and Marbug are both highly infectious, spread mostly through contact with body fluids, and have high case fatalities.

Symptoms include bleeding, diarrhoea and vomiting and while there is no cure for both diseases, some patients survive through treatment of symptoms.

A total of 16 people died from the last Ebola outbreak and the frequency of infections has been rising in recent years.

Uganda has managed to avoid a repeat of its worst episode of Ebola, in 2000, when 425 people were infected and more than half died.

Ondoa said five more suspected cases were being monitored, including two at an isolation facility at Mulago Hospital in Kampala.

Luwero itself was last hit by Ebola in May last year, an outbreak in which a 12-year-old girl died.

Dennis Lwamafa, commissioner for disease control, said the latest outbreak was not linked to the July infection, attributing the rising frequency of haemorrhagic fevers to increased disease surveillance.

A team of health experts including personnel from the World Health Organisation and Doctors Without Borders has been sent to Luwero and an isolation facility was being set up at the district's Nyimbwa health centre for suspected Ebola patients, Ondoa said.

(Reporting by Elias Biryabarema; editing by Yara Bayoumy and Keiron Henderson)

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