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UN health agency helps Uganda respond to case of deadly Marburg disease

UN health agency helps Uganda respond to case of deadly Marburg disease

The United Nations health agency is helping the Government of Uganda in outbreak response and containment activities following a confirmed case of Marburg virus disease, a rare but highly fatal haemorrhagic illness with epidemic potential, but there is at present no indication of a need to restrict travel or trade with the East African country.

At the Ugandan Government’s request the UN World Health Organization (WHO), along with partners in the Global Outbreak Alert and Response Network (GOARN), will provide ongoing support in epidemiology, ecological studies, field communications, supplies and logistics, the agency said in a statement today.

Containment and control measures implemented so far by the Health Ministry are in accordance with international best practice, it added.

A 29-year-old man working in a mine in western Uganda was admitted to hospital on 7 July and died on 14 July, while the disease was confirmed by laboratory diagnosis on 30 July, WHO said.

The man had had prolonged close contact with a 21-year-old co-worker with a similar illness to whom he had been providing care. The 21-year-old had developed symptoms on 27 June and was hospitalized with a haemorrhagic illness. He then recovered and was discharged on 9 July.

The disease begins with severe diarrhoea, abdominal pain, nausea, vomiting and chest and lung pains, often leads to severe haemorrhage in the gastrointestinal tract and lungs. There are indications that close contact with bodily fluids of infected people, as in health care or burial, increases the risk of infection, but to date there have been no reported cases among health care workers in Uganda.

The worst ever outbreak of Marburg, which occurs very rarely and appears to be geographically confined to a few countries in Africa, killed nearly 250 people in Angola in 2005.

The disease, of the same family as Ebola, was first identified in 1967 during simultaneous outbreaks affecting laboratory workers in Marburg and Frankfurt, Germany, and in Belgrade, Yugoslavia. The outbreaks, which involved 31 cases and seven deaths, were subsequently linked to contact with infected monkeys imported from Uganda.