Deadly fever claims yet more lives in Angola

时间:2019-03-02 06:19:00166网络整理admin

By Shaoni Bhattacharya The number of people dying of a rare haemorrhagic fever in Angola climbed to 146 on Sunday, in what has become the deadliest outbreak ever known. It has also been suggested that the use of dirty needles may have spread the terrible disease in young children. The number of cases of Marburg haemorrhagic fever – a relative of the even deadlier Ebola virus – was confirmed by Angola’s health ministry. The infections are concentrated in the northern province of Uige, but there are fears that the virus could spread to the capital Luanda, to where a few sick people have already fled before perishing. After a five to 10 day incubation period, Marburg virus causes fever, muscle aches, vomiting and diarrhoea amongst other symptoms. It can lead to bleeding and multiple organ failure. Although only a handful of outbreaks have ever been documented since the virus’s discovery in 1967, virologists have noticed that this latest outbreak seems to have hit young children much harder than adults. Three-quarters of the Angolan outbreak’s victims are under five years of age, says the World Health Organization. “I suspect that the age distribution of cases in Angola will ultimately turn out to have more of a behavioural basis, as opposed to biological,” writes Daniel Bausch at the Tulane School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine, US, on an infectious diseases mailing list, Promed Mail. He and his team have just finished analysing an outbreak of Marburg fever in the Democratic Republic of Congo between 1998 and 2000, which killed 123 people. WHO scientists suggest that the unusual pattern of spread of the disease and young age group affected in this outbreak might be due to unsafe medical practices. Pierre Formenty, a zoonotic disease expert at WHO, told US National Public Radio that the Angolan outbreak has occurred over the largest area of any yet seen: “We have cases not just in the city of Uige itself but in cities up to 40 kilometres away.” He adds that many people have become infected in hospital since the start of the outbreak in October 2004. It is possible that this could explain why so many of Marburg’s victims have been young children, as infants may be more likely to receive injections for treatment or vaccination. Marjorie Pollack, the medical epidemiology and surveillance moderator for ProMed, points out that “given the long history of civil unrest in Angola, it would not be surprising to learn that supplies to [Uige province] have been somewhat deficient and that needles and syringes were reused in health facilities. [This would be] in keeping with other studies conducted in developing world countries”. But Bausch says that although unsafe jabs might be a factor there could be many other possible common exposures. “I would not cross injections off my list but you have to be very careful – vaccinations are one of the best things you can do in terms of public health,” he told New Scientist. He speculates that children might pick up the virus in a paediatric hospital ward without sound infection control measures. “Or are there occupational or play exposures directly exposing them to Marburg? Do the kids climb trees and find fruit to eat which is contaminated by bats?” he asks. The origins of the Marburg virus – like Ebola – are unknown. It can jump to humans from primates, but they are unlikely to be its natural source as they also die quickly. The last Congo outbreak occurred in gold miners who are believed to have picked up the virus in the local mines. This implicated bats, rodents and other animals which live in the mines as Marburg’s primary source, says Bausch. International teams of scientists are working with the Angolan ministry of health to contain this latest outbreak. WHO,