Doctor Loses Life to Ebola in Outbreak

A doctor treating Ebola is one of the latest casualties of a horrific outbreak.

ByABC News
February 9, 2009, 8:39 AM
Dec. 11, 2007 — -- According to reports by the Associated Press, the Ebola outbreak in Uganda's Bundibugyo District had claimed 29 lives as of Monday. An additional 113 people are suspected to have fallen ill with the disease.

Today, fears remain that the outbreak could mushroom into a major epidemic affecting the capital Kampala.

It seems that the only thing that has spread faster than the virus itself is fear of infection. The AP reports that banks and supermarkets in the capital city issued their staff with protective rubber gloves for handling money they feared could be contaminated with the virus, which often causes victims to bleed to death through their ears, eyes and other orifices.

With the exception of one case, all who have been infected so far have died in Bundibugyo district.

The sole exception is Dr. Jonah Kule, who after treating infected patients died soon afterwards in a Kampala hospital. His story, relayed through doctors who are now held under quarantine within the district, is told below by ABC News contributor Dr. John Spangler.


"Dr. Jonah Kule died this evening, Tuesday 4 December, at Mulago Hospital [of Ebola hemorrhagic fever] ...

"Ebola is horrific. There are no words to express our grief. And this makes the whole epidemic even more frightening, if that were possible."

So writes Dr. Jennifer Myhre, a medical missionary, who, along with her husband, Dr. Scott Myhre, has lived in Bundibugyo District in remote western Uganda for 14 years serving the poorest of the poor.

"We have lost one of our best friends," she continues.

The Myhres -- Scott, a family physician, and Jennifer, a pediatrician, knew Kule since they began work in this virtually unknown corner of the world.

Bundibugyo is a place that rarely makes the news -- that is until a week ago when the deadly Ebola virus erupted with vengeance into a ghastly epidemic.

Native to Africa, Ebola is not well known in the United States. But in central and eastern parts of Africa, where it periodically explodes into fatal, bloody outbreaks, the mere mention of the word sparks dread and panic.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Ebola hemorrhagic fever (Ebola HF) is a relentless, frequently lethal disease in humans, gorillas, monkeys and other nonhuman primates. It has appeared sporadically since its initial recognition in 1976.

Scientists conjecture that outbreaks initially occur by exposure of humans to infected animals. Symptoms include fever, vomiting, diarrhea and, commonly, bleeding from all body orifices. Patients usually die of shock or respiratory failure, likely as a result of massive bleeding, including bleeding into the lungs.

Epidemics spread through contact with the blood or body fluids of the ill.

Kule, who grew up in Bundibugyo, had recently returned to this deprived rural district after completing medical school in the capital city of Kampala.

Kule passed up lucrative career opportunities in Kampala and other large Ugandan cities to work among his tribesmen in a place where few Ugandan doctors venture, and even then, venture only when assigned as part of government service.

Kule was one of the few from Bundibugyo to ever attend medical school.

"He refused to charge patients extra fees for his services, even though that is widely practiced in government hospitals," writes Jennifer Myhre. "He was completely trustworthy with his responsibilities and resources.