Wednesday, March 30, 2005

"Green Monkey" disease kills 126 in Angola

An epidemic caused by the Marburg virus has claimed at least 126 lives in Angola where doctors are in serious shortage, hospital officials said Monday.

"We have not only asked the military for help, but also from around the world, national and international, in the fight against Marburg," said Luanda's provincial health director Vita Mvemba.

Mvemba said Angola now faces serious shortages of medical workers to fight the epidemic with some provinces having only several doctors.

The disease kills around one in four who contract it, while effective treatment is yet unknown.

Angola's northern province of Uige was worst hit by the epidemic, registering the bulk of the total death toll. In the capital Lunada, two have died, including an Italian doctor.

Marburg has been identified as the infectious viral agent behind the strange epidemic hitting Angola since last October, Deputy Health Minister Jose Van-Dunem said on March 22.

The Marburg disease is a viral infection originated from the green monkey, which clinically manifested by a hemorrhagic fever syndrome, the minister told a press conference.

The transmission occurs through the contact with animals, infected human beings or through the semen during unprotected sex, as well as by way of body fluids handling.

Strong headaches, muscle pains, fever, vomits and diarrhea, among others, are the first symptoms of the disease, and after seven days patients can present hemorrhage through vomits, through the vagina, skin and eyes.

The disease first broke out in 1967 in laboratories in former Yugoslavia and Germany during the handling of infected tissues from monkeys. Several African countries including South Africa have also experienced the epidemic.

Three-quarters of the deaths have been children under the age of five, according to the World Health Organization.


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