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Kyotera Strange Disease Patients Shun Isolation Centre, Flock to Traditional Healers

According to Dr. Alloysious Musoke, in charge of Kakuuto HCIV, the Ministry Of Health sent two teams to work jointly with the World Health Organisation, Masaka regional referral hospital and Kakuuto Health team to identify the actual cause of the illness.
Dr. Alloysious Musoke, the Kakuuto HCIV In-charge, inside the vacant isolation unit. photo by Davis Buyondo

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The isolation Centre, which was established at Kakuuto Health Centre IV to receive and treat patients, and to investigate the strange disease has remained vacant for nearly two months due to lack of patients.

The unit was established following the increasing unexplained deaths in Kijonjo parish in Kasasa sub-county where it killed at least 10 people and left several in critical condition in Kijonjo A, Kijonjo B, Nakatooke A and Nakatooke B villages over the past six months.

According to Dr. Alloysious Musoke, In-charge Kakuuto HCIV, the Ministry Of Health sent two teams to work jointly with the World Health Organisation, Masaka regional referral hospital and Kakuuto health team to identify the actual cause of the illness.

He says that they are surprised to not have received any patient for review or treatment

in spite of the ongoing investigations and persistent sensitization in the affected communities.

Musoke explains that the patients are being handled by traditional healers since the majority attributed the sickness to witchcraft which has hindered professional care and further affected ongoing investigations to some extent.

//Cue in; “We put…………//

Cue out…….witchcraft.”//

He further noted that it was the same case with HIV/AIDS pandemic where people first belied it was witchcraft until science identified the virus.

Musoke appealed to Kijonjo residents to trust the healthcare professionals to treat them and avoid misconceptions.

A patient with this disease develops symptoms such as nausea, severe fever, vomiting, chest pain, a sore throat, abdominal pain, swelling on the arms, and diarrhoea and would die within three or five days.

//Cue in; “There is…………//

Cue out…….this illness.”//

Concerning the ongoing investigations, the two teams from the Ministry of Health, WHO,

Masaka regional referral hospital and Kakuuto health teams, have not been able to identify the cause of the bizarre illness and the deaths.

Musoke noted that over ten people in the affected communities reported having recovered after visiting traditional healers while others claim they healed without any medical interventions

//Cue in; “In all the…………//

Cue out…….us worried.”//

According to Denis Muyunga, the Kasaka LCIII Chairman, they have not registered any deaths this month but there are several people who have fallen sick with similar symptoms.      He says Ronald Ssempijja, the Kijonjo A Chairperson, is one of the survivors of the strange illness who are still battling it through traditional or spiritual means.

He adds that they rejected medical treatment and chose to treat the disease traditionally saying they know the person responsible for their suffering.

//Cue in; “Generally……//

Cue out………..kituufu.”//

Dr. Edward Muwanga, the District Health Officer (DHO), says he dispatched a team of health professionals to continue sensitizing the affected communities but none of the patients has visited a health centre since the isolation was instituted.

He says that some residents believe it is a spiritual ailment that requires the intervention of traditional healers to cleanse the village of the bad spell.

According to the February 2022 situation report on the undiagnosed illness in Kyotera district, the Ministry of Health deployed a multi-disciplinary team comprising epidemiologists, a physician, a communication specialist and microbiologists to further investigate and establish the magnitude of the problem of the unknown illness.

The team was to identify possible exposures and risk factors for the illness, engage the communities and traditional healers to understand what traditional remedies were used and be able to either associate or disassociate them with exposure.

The report says that the team was also tasked to confirm the causative agent of death or illness and further recommend evidence-based control measures, which is still ongoing.