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WHO Identifies Ebola-Like Virus Ravaging Angola

The World Health Organization (WHO) reports 95 people, most of them children under age five, in Uige province in northern Angola have died from an outbreak of Marburg virus. The agency says there have been 102 cases of the disease since last October.

The World Health Organization says samples of the disease which were sent for analysis to a laboratory in Dakar, Senegal and the U.S.-based Centers for Disease Control confirm the illness as Marburg, a disease similar to Ebola. WHO says the monthly number of cases has progressively increased since the start of the outbreak. But, it adds this could be the result of intensified surveillance of the virus.

A WHO spokeswoman, Fadela Chaib says 75 percent of all deaths are among very young children. She says health workers do not know why they are the main victims.

"It is why WHO has dispatched a team to the field and we will strengthen this team in order to try to find more what is the reservoir of this disease, why it is effecting mainly children and also to bring with them protective equipment to doctors, nurses, nurse barriers, etc. in order to avoid the more infection among health workers and people dealing with it," she said.

The Marburg virus has an incubation period of three to nine days. In the earliest stage of infection, symptoms are non-specific. It may be easily confused with more common diseases, including malaria, yellow fever and typhoid fever.

Ms. Chaib says the disease causes abdominal pain, high fever, nausea and vomiting. She says death can be rapid.

"People should be treated with fluids and also with some antibiotics,” she said. “There is unfortunately no vaccine for this disease. People can die within a frame time of one week after the onset of the first symptoms. So, it is very important to monitor the situation and also to manage people in hospitals and health centers."

The World Health Organization says Marburg virus occurs very rarely and appears to be geographically confined to a small number of countries in the southern part of the African continent. When cases do occur, it says the disease has epidemic potential because it can spread easily from person to person, through bodily fluids such as mucus, saliva and blood.