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Killer disease in Uganda capital, 5 dead

23 October 2012, 08:21

 Kampala - An outbreak of the deadly Marburg virus in Uganda has spread to the capital Kampala after an infected woman travelled to the city and the death toll from the disease, a cousin of Ebola, climbed to five, a health official said on Monday.

The latest outbreak of another haemorrhagic fever, first confirmed on Friday in Kabale district, 430km southwest of Kampala, has rattled a country that only two weeks ago declared itself free of Ebola after it claimed at least 16 lives.

There is no vaccine or specific treatment for the Marburg virus, also known as Marburg haemorrhagic fever, which is transmitted through bodily fluids such as saliva and blood, or by handling infected wild animals such as monkeys.

"We have one case confirmed in Mulago Hospital while the number of the dead is now five," Rukia Nakamatte, spokesperson for the ministry of health told Reuters on Monday.

"Thirty -four contacts are being monitored and an isolation facility is being set up."

A health official told Reuters on Monday that the woman at Mulago, the country's largest referral hospital, had travelled to Kampala about five days ago and is a member of a family in Kabale which lost three people.

Health investigators have yet to determined the origin of the latest Marburg infection but Uganda's director general of health services, Dr Ruth Aceng, said on Friday that outbreaks of haemorrhagic fevers in Uganda tend to occur between June and September.

This is the period when villagers who go into the wild to collect fruit are likely to come into contact with wild animals such as fruit bats, a natural vector for the Marbug virus.

Elly Matte, a police spokesperson in Kabale, said people were alarmed about the viral outbreak. "We... might impose a quarantine if the situation worsens," he said.

Ugandan Health officials, as preventative measures, have urged people to avoid public gatherings and bodily contact. The World Health Organization has deployed a team to the district to support the outbreak investigation and response.

The last outbreak of Marburg in Uganda was in 2007 and killed two miners in the west while the deadliest occurrence of haemorrhagic fever was in 2000 when 425 people contracted Ebola and more than half of them died.

Marburg, from the same family of viruses as Ebola, starts with a severe headache followed by haemorrhaging and, in previous outbreaks in Africa, to death in 80% or more of cases, usually within eight to nine days.

Although both viruses are highly contagious and have high case fatalities, Marburg has a shorter incubation period of 14 days, compared to Ebola's 21. 

- Reuters


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