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Marburg virus death toll climbs to 257 in Angola

Saturday April 30, 2005

Marburg virus death toll climbs to 257 in Angola

LUANDA, Angola: The death toll from an outbreak of the rare Marburg virus in Angola has climbed from 244 to 257, Angola's deputy health minister said. 

The latest fatalities from the Ebola-like virus occurred in the northern province of Uige, where the outbreak of the disease is believed to have begun early last year, Deputy Health Minister Natalia Espirito-Santo told a news conference Friday. 

The World Health Organization had put the death toll at 244 on April 22. 

But while the number of fatalities had risen, Espirito-Santo said that for the first time an infected patient had recovered and was discharged from an isolation ward at the Uige provincial hospital. 

"This patient's case may mean that not all infected will die and that people are developing antibodies to the disease,'' she said. 

The patient's age and sex were not known. Espirito-Santo said more people were going to hospitals for treatment after an intensive publicity campaign to alert people of the dangers of Marburg. 

"People's trust in the doctors and hospitals is slowly being regained and that is a very positive thing,'' she said. 

Last month, workers from the WHO and Doctors Without Borders were attacked and their vehicles damaged by people who blamed them for the spread of the disease. People also began to stop reporting suspect cases and going to hospital for treatment. 

Also Friday, the WHO said in a statement that doctors at Uige's provincial hospital had been exposed to blood from Marburg patients being treated without adequate infection control. Other safety protocols had been breached, further endangering doctors and non-Marburg patients, the statement said. 

"Under such conditions amplification of transmission is highly likely to occur,'' the organization said. 

There is no vaccine for the Marburg virus, which spreads through contact with bodily fluids and can kill rapidly. The last and previously most severe outbreak of Marburg occurred in neighboring Congo between 1998 and 2000, killing 128 people.--AP 

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