- Angola: Marburg Virus Blamed For 96 Deaths
- By Zoe Eisenstein
- (Reuters) -- An illness that has killed nearly 100 people
in northern Angola was identified on Tue 22 Mar 2005 as the rare Marburg
virus, which is from the same family [the family _Filoviridae_] as Ebola
virus, state and UN officials said. Described as "very virulent"
and "very contagious" and transmitted through bodily fluids,
the hemorrhagic fever threatens to spread from the northern Uige province
to other parts of the country. "This is a possibility. The incubation
period is 21 days so we must reinforce the surveillance in neighbouring
provinces and especially in Luanda," Vice Minister for Health Jose
Van Dunem told Reuters.
- Some 107 people in Uige have fallen victim to Marburg
virus infection, for which there is no cure, with the number of deaths
attributed to the epidemic now standing at 96. Experts last week ruled
out Ebola virus --- one of the world's deadliest diseases --- but had not
yet pinpointed the disease that struck in Uige, about 225 km (140 miles)
north of Luanda.
- With a health infrastructure shattered by a devastating
civil war, Angola is facing monumental challenges trying to combat the
virus. "The mortality rate is around 30 percent in good hospitals.
In hospitals like ours in Uige where the quality is not so high we have
a higher (rate of) mortality," Van Dunem said. "We are trying
to do our best by using our national capacity and asking for international
support," he added.
- The World Health Organisation and the U.S. Centers for
Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in Atlanta, which diagnosed the virus,
have sent in experts, and medical non-governmental organisations have also
given their support, Van Dunem said.
- Portugal has already warned its nationals not to travel
to Uige but Van Dunem said the Angolan government would not issue similar
warnings. "The illness is contracted by secretions. If you don't touch
an infected person, you don't risk being contaminated. So it doesn't make
sense to (stop) a person from going there," he said. Marburg virus
[infection] is characterised by high fever, headaches, nausea, with vomiting
and diarrhoea accompanied by blooding. Most of the dead are children under
- Marburg virus and the various Ebola viruses together
comprise the family _Filoviridae_. However, Marburg virus and the Ebola
viruses do not cross-react serologically and they have genomes with distinctive
characteristics. Although Marburg virus was isolated earlier than any of
the Ebola viruses, it has been less prominent as a pathogen. Marburg virus
was first identified in 1967 in Germany and the former Yugoslavia, when
laboratory workers contracted haemorrhagic fevers from apparently healthy
monkeys imported from Uganda. Later a case of Marburg virus infection was
recorded in Zimbabwe in 1975 together with secondary cases in South Africa.
Sporadic outbreaks of Marburg virus infection have occurred subsequently
in Kenya and elsewhere, but none have been on the scale associated with
the various outbreaks of Ebola virus infection. The overall mortality in
the Marburg outbreaks has been about 25%. The current outbreak in Angola
is larger than previous outbreaks of Marburg virus infection and the mortality
could be higher than previously observed. An unusual feature of this outbreak
of filovirus-associated haemorrhagic fever is the reported large number
of deaths of children below five-years-of-age. - Mod.CP]
- [This is the 1st confirmation of Marburg virus in Angola.
One wonders if the prior unexplained clusters/cases of hemorrhagic fever
in Angola may have been due to Marburg virus as well. - Mod.MPP
- Patricia A. Doyle, PhD
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