The Marburg virus outbreak in Angola has spread to theDemocratic Republic of the Congo and to Italy, where ninecases have been reported. Marburg has a short chain ofcontagion, and is not considered as dangerous as Ebola. Atpresent, it is believed that the virus can only be spread bytouch and contact with infected body fluids. An Italianpediatrician died of the disease last week in Angola, but itis not known if the cases just reported in Italy areconnected. A possible case in Portugal has been ruled not tobe Marburg.

The World Health Organization warned yesterday that theoutbreak ofMarburg virus in Angola is becoming a major health problem.With 174 lives lost so far out of 200 cases reported, it isthe largest outbreak of the virus so far recorded, and thereis concern that the virus may have mutated into a morecommunicable form.

Marburg has symptoms similar to Ebola virus, which attacksthe structure of cells and breaks them down, causing victimsto ‘bleed out’ and die from dehydration and blood loss.

On Thursday, WHO aid workers were forced to leave the regionof Angola north of Luanda where the outbreak is taking placeafter they were attacked by local residents who believe thatthey are spreading the virus rather than trying to contain it.

Such attacks are not uncommon in areas where diseases areviewed with superstition, and it is believed by officialsthat many local residents are hiding sick relatives fromrelief personnel.

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