Russian scientist dies of Ebola after lab accident

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May 25, 2004 (CIDRAP News) – A Russian scientist who was doing research on Ebola virus died after accidentally injecting herself with the deadly virus, according to news service reports.

The scientist was doing research on guinea pigs infected with the virus at the Vector laboratory at Novosibirsk in Siberia, according to a report from the Itar-Tass News agency, published May 22 on the ProMED-mail Web site. The Vector lab produced biological weapons in the Soviet era.

The researcher pricked herself with a syringe May 5 and died May 19, according to a Reuters report. "Her hand just slipped and she jabbed herself," the report said. The Itar-Tass report said she was isolated in a special hospital and treated in consultation with Health Ministry specialists and a physician who has treated Ebola patients in Africa.

A New York Times report identified the scientist as Antonina Presnyakova and said she was working on an Ebola vaccine. The story said Vector officials did not report the accident to the World Health Organization (WHO) until last week, which meant that potentially helpful advice from WHO experts was not immediately available.

The Itar-Tass report said those who were involved in treating the scientist and investigating the case would be kept under observation for 21 days, with daily medical exams and twice-daily temperature monitoring.

The Times story said a similar accident with Ebola occurred several months ago at the US Army's biodefense laboratory at Fort Detrick in Frederick, Md., but the researcher involved didn't acquire the disease.

No specific treatment is available for Ebola infection, and the case-fatality rate ranges from 50% to 90%, depending on the virus subtype.

See also:

CIDRAP overview of viral hemorrhagic fevers, including Ebola
http://www.cidrap.umn.edu/cidrap/content/bt/vhf/biofacts/index.html

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