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Recent Viral Outbreaks in Uganda Impact Tourism Industry

LESS than two weeks after declaring Uganda free of Ebola in Kibale, a very virulent haemorrhagic viral infection, Marburg, a disease caused by a sister virus to Ebola, comes on the scene in Kabale.

Not that the lilt for Kibale rythmes that of Kabale, but the two districts are sites for tourism in the country; Kabale being the only tourist site with the more than 400 Mountain Gorillas in the world.

The question arising, therefore, is why do these diseases not occur in districts like Mayuge, where tourism is at best non-existent and jiggers prevail? Is this occurrence a coincidence, accident, or some other hand is at work?

Uganda's tourist attraction dates as far back as the days of Sir Winston Churchill at the turn of the 19th Century when he baptised little known Uganda, the Pearl of Africa.

Since that time, Uganda's tourism industry was promulgated globally that at the time of the country's independence, tourists from as far as Europe, America and Australia, among others, made their destination in the Pearl of Africa. Come the economic war in 1972, the trend of things negatively changed.

However, with the fundamental changes that have taken place in the country since 1986, the tourism industry has once again gained increased global recognition as evidenced by the recent accolades such as the 'Lonely Planet' thus making Uganda the best tourist destination in 2012.

This notwithstanding, oil discovery in recent years has positioned Uganda as a potential economic region on the world map that will not only attract oil merchants but increasingly become a better place to live in.

The increasingly growing number of international conferences and workshops that have been held here in recent times with a corresponding number of mushrooming hotels is a clear indication that Uganda is headed for increasing trends in the number of tourists in the near future.

However, in as much as the above is true, it must be borne in mind that the tourist industry is a global, continental and regional business, and a competitive one at that.

So it is against this background that as Uganda continues to successfully attract international events and with the 50th Independence Anniversary consummated, that anecdotal but seemingly parallel health related occurrences of epidemic proportion occur, thus adversely affecting the country's tourism industry, let alone annihilating the country's populace.

Whether by coincidence, accident or an act of negative elements whose aim is to propagate Bio-terrorism is a question to be answered.

Chronology of dangerous biological organisms

In 2007, when Uganda hosted the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting, Anthrax occurred around Lake George, where it decimated herds of hippopotami.

Lake George and the surrounding area is a conglomerate of more than 1,000 bird species, lions, and elephants among others, without putting the wonderful flora in oblivion.

This area is the Queen Elizabeth National Park. In 2000, Ebola occurred in Gulu, then a region for donor destination.

Ebola has since then occurred in Luwero at the time when the Inter-Parliamentary Association was due to take place in the country in 2011.

It occurred in Bundibugyo, around the same time not far from the national park mentioned above.

Similarly, swine flu, bird flu have more or less had closely parallel occurrences with some events, despite its occurrence elsewhere in some parts in the world.

Cholera, a disease of backwardness, since people who get it will have consumed fresh, uncooked feaces, has equally occurred in some parts of this country when some big event is due to take place.

Recently, a dangerous plant to both human and other animal life, stretching over five kilometers has been identified in Queen Elizabeth (New Vision, Tuesday, July 31, 2012). Who planted it there?

Science in bio-terrorism

The organisms (viruses, bacteria) that cause Ebola, Anthrax, Cholera, Swine flu, Bird flu can be acquired directly from the animals that harbour these organisms, or indirectly through water and other foods.

It is also possible that samples of these organisms can be ferried in specimen bottles under viable conditions and be put to dangerous use by negative elements.

This is the negative part of science in wrong hands.

This chronology of dangerous biological organisms that has occurred in Uganda for the last couple of years should not be taken lightly.

Uganda requires a strong responsive strategy!

From the foregoing, therefore, we feel that:

A research be instituted to investigate the correlation between international events and the occurrence afore mentioned and also investigate immigration permits of persons that frequent the country for work and other business

Review all research work carried out here during the period in question.

Register and monitor bio-chemical laboratories in the country

Lastly but not least, do not take things for granted. Bio-terrorism can be more devastating in terms of GDP and human life than direct war fare.

In the meantime, people should report to the nearest health facility when symptomatology simulating Marburg (fever, headache, joint pains, general body weakness, vomiting, bleeding from anybody orifice) ensues.

Writer is an International health specialist

The New Vision Newspaper

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