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Deadly Marburg Fever Contained in Northern Uganda

The World Health Organization says an outbreak of the deadly Marburg fever in a remote mining community in northern Uganda is contained. However, health officials say they will continue monitoring the situation to make sure the disease does not reappear. Lisa Schlein reports for VOA from WHO headquarters in Geneva.

The World Health Organization says it has not uncovered any new cases of Marburg fever since two people became ill with the deadly disease last month. A 29-year-old gold-miner in Uganda's western Kamwenge district died in mid-July. A 21-year-old man, who was in contact with the victim, fell ill but has since recovered.

WHO spokesman Gregory Hartl tells VOA that health experts tracked down all the people who had come into contact with the two sick men. He says extensive investigations have not turned up any other infections.

"The disease outbreak appears to be contained because we are past the incubation period, or two-times the incubation period, which would be 20 days maximum," he said. "However, the survivor is still under observation and will be under observation for perhaps the next three-months because it is known that survivors of this disease continue to secrete the virus. And we would want to ensure that this person does not transmit the virus to anyone else."

Marburg Fever is highly contagious. The virus that causes Marburg is related to the Ebola virus and is spread through blood or other body fluid. The virus attacks the body's blood vessels and causes internal bleeding and organ failure. There is no known cure for the disease, which kills up to 90 percent of its victims.

Hartl says health officials currently are collecting bats near the mine where the men were contaminated. He says they are studying the bats to see whether they might be one of the reservoirs (carriers) of the Marburg Fever.

"If it is one of the reservoirs, then hopefully this will allow them to better control the virus," he noted. "If they know that bats carry the virus, then they can start undertaking measures to prevent bats from dropping feces or urinating in places where these feces and urine, for example, might come into contact with humans or with other animals that are then eaten by humans."

A major outbreak of Marburg Fever among gold miners occurred in the Democratic Republic of Congo between 1998 and 2000, killing 128 of the 154 people infected. In 2004 and 2005, an outbreak in Angola caused the death of 150 out of 163 people who became ill.