Killer virus spreads in Angola

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has called for extra help to halt the spread of the deadly Marburg virus in Angola, which has killed 215 of 235 known cases.

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By  Stuart Qualtrough Published  April 18, 2005

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has called for additional measures to halt the spread of the deadly Marburg virus in Angola, which has killed 215 of 235 known cases mainly in the north of the country. The UN agency said fear and ignorance were fuelling the world's deadliest outbreak of the disease as locals are too suspicious of medics in "astronaut" suits to let them take away infected loved ones. Terrified residents stoned WHO workers' vehicles earlier this month, putting a brief halt to their operations to contain the disease in Uige province, northeast of Angola's capital Luanda. There is an unusually high death rate among the 235 cases identified since October, mainly in the northern town of Uige, with an overwhelming number of initial cases striking children under 5 years old, the WHO said in a statement. Some 50 international experts have been deployed in Angola, where 27 years of civil war have left weakened health systems and staff untrained for coping with a major epidemic. By isolating victims and tracing their contacts, officials were hopeful of "breaking the chain of transmission" in Uige. The rare haemorrhagic fever, related to the deadly Ebola virus, is one of the most virulent pathogens known and is characterised by headaches, nausea, vomiting and bloody diarrhoea. There is no known cure for the virus, which is spread through close contact with bodily fluids including blood, saliva and semen. Twelve health care workers are among the total of 200 cases. Marburg gets its name from the German town where it was first reported in the 1960s after researchers there contracted it from monkeys imported from Africa. The previous worst recorded outbreak was during a 1998-2000 epidemic in the neighbouring Democratic Republic of Congo when 123 people died.

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