March 26, 2005 in Nation/World

African virus kills three more

Associated Press
 

LISBON, Portugal – The death toll from an Ebola-like fever in the African nation of Angola rose to 112 on Friday, with three deaths reported in its capital.

A 15-year-old boy, an Italian aid worker and a Vietnamese doctor died in Luanda from the hemorragic fever, health officials said, according to the Portuguese news agency Lusa. Two other cases of the illness were detected in Luanda.

Health officials said all five patients had come from Uige, the province along the Congo border where the outbreak was first reported. Officials feared the patients could have come into contact with more people in Luanda.

“We are running tests on family members and people they might have been in contact with to rule out infection of others,” health official Vita Vemba told Lusa.

World Health Organization spokesman Dick Thompson in Geneva could not confirm the report but said by telephone that several teams are traveling to Angola in the coming days to help with diagnosis and containing the disease.

WHO said Tuesday that the illness was Marburg, a disease similar to Ebola. Analysis had identified 102 cases of the virus since October, 95 of which had proved fatal, WHO said. Angolan officials now put the death toll at 112.

Authorities initially feared the deaths were caused by Ebola, which still exists in nature in Congo.

Doctors have no vaccine or cure for Marburg, which can be rapidly fatal, WHO said.

Previous outbreaks have indicated that the risk of infection is increased by close contact with bodily fluids of infected people, WHO said.

Airports in Portugal were on alert for passengers coming from Angola, Portuguese health officials said. Angola is an ex-Portuguese colony and has a large community living in Portugal.

About three-quarters of cases have occurred in children under 5 and a small number of health care workers are among those adults infected, WHO said Tuesday.

“Marburg virus disease occurs very rarely and appears to be geographically confined to a small number of countries in the southern part of the African continent,” WHO has said. “When cases do occur, the disease has epidemic potential, as it can spread from person to person, most often during the care of patients.”

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