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WHO: Angola's Marburg Outbreak Slowly Coming Under Control

The Angolan representative of the World Health Organization has told VOA the outbreak of the Marburg virus in that country is slowly coming under control. Three hundred of the 347 people infected in the outbreak have now died.

Dr. Fatoumata Diallo says the number of new Marburg infections daily in Angola's Uige province is gradually reducing from dozens per day to just three new cases reported May 17.

But even so, the representative of the World Health Organization (WHO), says that it is impossible to estimate when the outbreak will be declared fully under control. Dr. Diallo says that will only be possible when there are no new infections for at least three weeks among people known to have had contact with an infected individual.

"It is not as I used to say, it is not a football game to say we start the game and play about one hour 45 minutes,” she explained. “This is an outbreak in communities, it means we are following it properly and cannot predict directly and say one day, or three, we can finish here, we can control totally the outbreak."

Marburg is one of two so-called filo-viruses, which are rare and about which science still knows quite little. The other is Ebola. Both are transmitted through contact with bodily fluids or tissue of an infected individual, and result in severe hemorrhaging and, almost always, death.

Today, the World Health Organization reported that Ebola has returned to the Republic of Congo, killing 9 people since the end of April, after tests confirmed the presence of the deadly virus.

Angola was ill prepared for the outbreak, with inadequate isolation and barrier systems in place. But Dr. Diallo says that the government and the health service has cooperated well with the emergency teams sent in by the WHO and that Angolan health workers have gained new skills and capacity by working with their international colleagues.

"Of course yes, we're working together, they are very supportive and very committed,” said Dr. Diallo. “They are doing what they are supposed to do, as government, as country, and we are supporting them since they don't have all the capacities to face this outbreak, that is why we are in the field, and we are trying to strengthen capacities in the meantime, this is learning by doing. We are doing [this] with them, that means they will see how to do, and how to perform better in the field, because this outbreak is a very new phenomenon in this country."

Some South African practitioners who have returned home after working in Uige have told the local media harrowing tales of the dead and dying and the problems they faced in trying to bring the outbreak under control. They also described how local practices and beliefs sometimes impeded their ability to convince Angolans to follow barrier and other methods to prevent the spread of the disease.