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UGANDA: A brief history of haemorrhagic fever

NAIROBI, 23 October 2012 (IRIN) - Uganda's Ministry of Health is calling for calm as it tries to trace members of the public who may have had contact with people who have died from or been infected by an outbreak of the Marburg virus in south-western Uganda.

Marburg - a viral haemorrhagic fever from the same family as Ebola - causes severe headaches and malaise, followed by bleeding from multiple sites. According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the fatality rate for Marburg is between 23 and 90 percent. The virus, for which there is no vaccine or specific treatment, is transmitted by direct contact with the blood, body fluids or tissues of infected people.

According to the UN World Health Organization, as of 21 October, nine cases and five deaths had been reported in the south-western district of Kabale. By 22 October, at least one case - a woman from Kabale - had been reported at Mulago Hospital in the capital, Kampala.

The Marburg outbreak comes hot on the heels of a July Ebola outbreak in western Uganda. IRIN has put together a brief history of Ebola and Marburg occurrences in the country:

1967 - Thirty-one laboratory workers in Germany and Yugoslavia handling African green monkeys from Uganda became infected with the Marburg virus; seven of the infected died.

2000 - An outbreak of the Sudan strain of the Ebola virus in northern and western Uganda affected more than 400 people and killed more than 220. According to the CDC, some of the major risk factors for acquiring the virus included: attending funerals of Ebola patients, providing medical care to patients without proper protective measures, and having contact with infected family members.

2007 - Four workers became infected with the Marburg virus in a lead and gold mine in western Uganda's Kamwenge District; two of them died.

2007/2008 - The first reported outbreak of the newly identified Bundibugyo strain of Ebola - named for a western Ugandan district - infected 131 people and killed 42.

2008 - A US traveller who explored a cave in western Uganda's Maramagambo Forest was diagnosed with Marburg upon returning to the US, but made a full recovery. Another traveller, this time from the Netherlands, also visited a cave in Maramagambo the same year, and was diagnosed with Marburg when she returned home; she died from the virus. It is believed they may have been exposed to the disease by bats, which host both the Marburg and Ebola virus.

2011 - In May, one person died of the Sudan strain of Ebola in the central district of Luwero.

2012 - In July, an outbreak of the same Ebola strain in the western district of Kibaale infected 24 people, killing 17. The country was declared Ebola-free on 4 October.

2012 - In October, the Marburg virus killed at least five people in the southwestern district of Kabale.

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Theme(s): Education, Health & Nutrition,

[This report does not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations]