April 16, 2005

Marburg virus deaths top 210

The number of cases of Marburg hemorrhagic fever has continued to rise in north-western Angola, the World Health Organization has said. So far, 224 cases of the fever which is closely related to the deadly Ebola virus have been reported, 207 people have died. Uige Province, where most cases have proven fatal, has been the most severely affected area. "The present outbreak of Marburg hemorrhagic fever is unprecedented in its size and urban nature, and its dimensions are still unfolding," the WHO said in a written statement. The security of health teams "remains a concern," and more vehicles were needed, the agency said. "To bring the outbreak under control, the detection and isolation of patients needs to be much earlier, but this will not happen until the public understands the disease and the high risks associated with treating patients in homes," it added. The agency also applauded the decision by the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies to boost its presence in Uige. In response to an international appeal, the WHO has also received pledges of funding, to support the outbreak response, from Germany, Sweden, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom, and the European Union Humanitarian Office (ECHO).

In collaboration with church and community leaders and traditional healers, the staff of the WTO is going door to door to inform the residents about the disease. According to the WHO, all evidence collected to date shows that casual contact plays no role in the spread of the virus. "Transmission requires extremely close contact involving exposure to blood or other bodily fluids from a patient who will most likely be showing visible signs of illness." So far there is no vaccine or specific treatment against the virus. In addition to Angola, outbreaks and sporadic cases have been reported in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Kenya and South Africa. The Marburg virus is named after the town in Germany where one of the first outbreaks was identified in 1967. (WHO)

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