Uganda officials fear plague outbreak as rainy season begins

KAMPALA, Uganda — Health officials have launched a plague prevention campaign in the Nebbi district, which was most recently hit by the vector-borne disease a year ago.

Bacteria cause the disease, which attacks rodents. It is transmitted when an infected flea bites a person. Dogs, cats, guinea pigs and rats are potential hosts of fleas. Plague manifests in three forms depending on the route of infection.

The most recent outbreak occurred in November 2008, said Richard Ndyomugenyi, the program manager of the National Malaria Control Program.

At the launch of a plague prevention campaign in Nebbi on Oct. 27, district health officer Dr. Jakor Oryema said plague has been around from the 1930s and then cases have continued to occur annually during the rainy season and the dry period from around September.

"The worst epidemic was in 1993 where all the three types [of plague] manifested," he added. He says the causes leading to persistent epidemics in Okoro are related to the low socio-economic standards of the people.

"Much as we know what needs to be done, resources for doing those things remain a big challenge," he said in a story posted on

Simon Ejua, the state minister for transport, said plague is a priority disease by World Health Organization because of its quick spread.

The most common form of plague is bubonic plague. Patients develop swollen, tender lymph glands called buboes. This form does not spread from person-to-person.

The second form is septicemic plague. It occurs when plague bacteria multiply in the blood. Patients get a fever, abdominal pain, and bleeding from the skin and other organs. This also does not spread from person-to-person.

The third type is pneumonic plague. It is the most virulent and least common. It infects the lungs. This type can spread from person-to-person through the air, especially if one is in direct contact with an infected person or animal.

It also occurs if untreated bubonic or septicemic plague bacteria spreads to the lungs.

“Outbreaks occur annually in spite of public awareness, chemical spraying and human quarantine measures,” Ejua said.