Deadly Marburg virus outbreak declared in Uganda

Story highlights

  • Marburg virus disease, related to Ebola, causes severe hemorrhagic fever
  • Hundreds may have been exposed to the virus, the WHO says

(CNN)An outbreak of contagious and deadly Marburg virus disease in the Kween district of eastern Uganda was declared by the nation's Ministry of Health on October 19.

Marburg virus disease, which causes severe viral hemorrhagic fever, ranks among the most virulent pathogens known to infect humans, according to the World Health Organization.
As of Saturday, two confirmed cases, one probable case and two suspected cases have been reported in the Kween district, on the border with Kenya, Tarik Jašarević, a spokesman for the WHO, wrote in an email. The confirmed and probable cases -- two brothers and a sister -- have died.
    The first case detected by the Ministry of Health was a 50-year-old woman who died at a health center of fever, bleeding, vomiting and diarrhea on October 11. One of the woman's brothers died of similar symptoms three weeks earlier and was buried in a traditional ceremony. A game hunter, the man lived near a cave inhabited by Rousettus bats, which are natural hosts of the Marburg virus.
    Laboratory tests at the Uganda Virus Research Institute in Entebbe confirmed that Marburg was the cause of both deaths.
    The WHO, which is working with Ugandan health authorities to contain the outbreak, has followed up with 135 contacts of the patients, Jašarević said. Some positive news has come of these investigations: Blood tests showed no infection in two health care workers who had previously been classified as suspected cases.
    Still, several hundred people may have been exposed to the virus at health facilities and at traditional burial ceremonies in the Kween district, according to the WHO.