Fear Incites Resistance to Efforts to Stop Marburg Virus in Angola
Download MP3 (Right-click or option-click the link.)
I'm Gwen Outen with the VOA Special English DEVELOPMENT REPORT.
Marburg virus has killed more than two hundred people in northern Angola. The rare virus has been deadly in nine out of ten cases.
Tests confirmed the virus as Marburg in late March. But the outbreak may have started in October in Uige, the area most severely affected. Cases have also been found in several other provinces.
Marburg virus is spread through blood and other bodily fluids. Victims develop high temperature, diarrhea, vomiting and bleeding from the body. The virus is most infectious near the time of death or soon after.
Many people have become infected from washing the bodies of dead family members, a traditional burial custom in Angola. Health workers have also died.
The World Health Organization says this is the largest known outbreak of Marburg. Officials say the virus has spread much faster than it did in the last outbreak. That was in the Democratic Republic of Congo from nineteen ninety-eight to two thousand. More than one hundred twenty people died.
Marburg virus is named after the German city where it was first discovered in nineteen sixty-seven. The virus is in the same family as Ebola. In fact, experts say the two are almost impossible to tell apart. There are no cures or preventions for either Marburg or Ebola. And the cause is a mystery.
Teams of international medical workers are in Angola. An area has been set up to care for Marburg patients at the four-hundred bed hospital in Uige. The goal is to keep anyone suspected of being infected away from others. Experts say isolation is one of the most important ways to control the outbreak.
Yet the W.H.O. reported late last week that the isolation ward was empty. The agency said local people were unwilling to report suspected cases.
Some have even turned fear and anger toward medical workers. It does not help that the workers must dress in protective wear that makes it difficult to see their face.
This past Friday, the W.H.O. reported progress after meetings with traditional community leaders in the city of Uige. It said the governor of the province agreed to have the leaders join medical teams for seven days to search for cases and collect bodies.
The W.H.O. called the decision an important step toward community acceptance of the measures needed to control the Marburg outbreak.
This VOA Special English DEVELOPMENT REPORT was written by Jill Moss. I'm Gwen Outen.