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Mobilizing to fight outbreak of Marburg virus in northern Angola

© WHO/Caetano
Health workers at Uige hospital receive the first batch of protective clothes.

By Macarena Aguilar

NEW YORK, 5 March 2005 – The most recent available figures for deaths from the outbreak of Marburg virus infection in Angola indicate that over 150 people have now died, and a further 175 have contracted the disease.

This is the worst-ever outbreak for this disease. The Marburg virus is transmitted through organic fluid, such as saliva, mucus, and sweat, and is from the same family of viruses as the deadly Ebola virus.

Most of the infections have been among children under the age of 15 and all the cases originated in the northern province of Uige.

“The situation remains highly serious with new cases reported on a daily basis,” said the UNICEF Representative in Angola, Mario Ferrari. “Although the overall response to the emergency is stepping up impressively, there is still a long way to go before we can claim to have the situation under control.”

UNICEF and the World Health Organization are assisting the Angolan Ministry of Health to mobilize the resources needed to fight the epidemic.

Protective clothing for health workers – goggles, face masks, heavy duty boots, gloves and protective head gear – is still urgently needed, along with disinfectant, body bags, emergency kits and essential drugs.

“In addition to the immediate needs in Uige, we need to prepare for the worst case scenario and ensure that the neighbouring provinces have the stocks to face a potential outbreak,” said Mr. Ferrari. “It’s also necessary to ensure health centres in those provinces most at risk have the means and drugs to continue providing routine care and treatment.”

In collaboration with the Ministry of Health and WHO, UNICEF is launching an information campaign to educate health workers and the public, including children, on how to avoid becoming ill.

Pamphlets, posters and TV and radio advertising will be disseminated throughout the country’s 18 provinces and will be available in Portuguese as well as eight of the country’s most commonly-spoken indigenous languages.

Hundreds of trained health workers are going door to door in Uige, attempting to dispel people’s fears about going to hospital if they fall ill.

“It is encouraging and reassuring to see that the overall population in Uige is regaining confidence in the hospital and is willing to report suspected cases,” said Teca García, UNICEF’s Resident Programme Officer in Uige.



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