Marburg Hemorrhagic Fever Kills Five in Uganda, WHO Says

Five people died in an outbreak of Marburg hemorrhagic fever that probably infected four others in southwestern Uganda, the World Health Organization said.

Of the cases, three have been laboratory-confirmed by the Uganda Virus Research Institute, the Geneva-based United Nations agency said in a statement late yesterday. WHO said it’s supporting health officials to control the outbreak.

“An investigation into the outbreak is ongoing,” WHO said. “Preliminary investigations indicate that all these cases belong to the same cluster -- family and relatives of the index case.”

Marburg hemorrhagic fever is a severe and highly fatal disease caused by a virus from the same family as the one that causes Ebola hemorrhagic fever. There is no vaccine or specific treatment for Marburg hemorrhagic fever, which was initially detected in 1967 following simultaneous outbreaks in Marburg and Frankfurt, Germany, and Belgrade in the former Yugoslavia, according to WHO.

The initial cases occurred in laboratory workers handling African green monkeys imported from Uganda.

Since then, outbreaks and sporadic cases have been reported in Angola, Democratic Republic of Congo, Uganda and Kenya. It has also been reported in South Africa in a person who had recently traveled to Zimbabwe, WHO said.

Infection results from contact with blood or other body fluids, such as feces and saliva, with high virus concentration. Patients become increasingly infectious as their illness progresses, and are most infectious during the phase of severe illness, according to a WHO fact sheet.

Many patients develop severe hemorrhagic manifestations between days five and seven, and fatal cases usually have some form of bleeding, often from multiple sites. In fatal cases, death occurs most often eight-to-nine days after symptom onset, usually preceded by shock.

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To contact the editor responsible for this story: Jason Gale at

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