Mystery Angola Illness
Identified As Rare
Marburg Virus

From Patricia Doyle, PhD

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 five.
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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Zhan le Devlesa tai sastimasa
Go with God and in Good Health



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