KAMPALA, Uganda -- The deadly Ebola virus has killed 14 people in western Uganda this month, Ugandan health officials said on Saturday, ending weeks of speculation about the cause of a strange disease that had many people fleeing their homes.
The officials and a World Health Organization representative told a news conference in Kampala on Saturday that there is "an outbreak of Ebola" in Uganda.
"Laboratory investigations done at the Uganda Virus Research Institute … have confirmed that the strange disease reported in Kibaale is indeed Ebola hemorrhagic fever," the Ugandan government and WHO said.
A team of health experts from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the World Health Organization, and the Ugandan government has been sent to the area, roughly three hours from Uganda's capital, Kampala, to begin emergency response measures, according to a government statement.
The strain of the virus, which in recent years has killed at a rate often above 70 percent of those infected, has been identified as Ebola Sudan, one of the virus' more common strains.
Health officials said the 14 dead were among 20 reported with the disease.
Two of the infected have been isolated for examination by researchers and health officials.
Officials urged Ugandans to be calm.
The CDC said it was helping to identify and trace "all those who may have had contact with suspect or confirmed cases since early July."
There is no cure or vaccine for Ebola, and in Uganda, where in 2000 the disease killed 224 people and left hundreds more traumatized, it revives terrible memories.
There have been isolated cases since, but none as deadly as in 2000.
Ebola, which manifests itself as a hemorrhagic fever, is highly infectious and kills quickly.
It was first reported in 1976 in Congo and is named for the river where it was recognized, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Scientists don't know the natural reservoir of the virus, but they suspect the first victim in an Ebola outbreak gets infected through contact with an infected animal, such as a monkey.
The virus can be transmitted through direct contact with the blood or secretions of an infected person, or objects that have been contaminated with infected secretions.