May 19, 2005 (CIDRAP News) The death toll in Angola's epidemic of Marburg hemorrhagic fever has climbed to 311 out of 337 cases, but all recent cases have been confined to the province where the epidemic began, the World Health Organization (WHO) said yesterday.
The last WHO report on the situation, on May 11, had listed 316 cases with 276 deaths. A Reuters report on May 16 had cited 336 cases with 292 deaths.
No cases have been reported outside the northern province of Uige in the past 5 weeks, the WHO said. The province has had 326 cases, 300 of them fatal.
The agency said control efforts are working smoothly. "The isolation unit at Uige's provincial hospital is being used, infection control in the hospital has improved, and safe burial practices are now being followed," the statement said.
"Portable field laboratories continue to provide rapid diagnostic support. A campaign to stop home treatment of patients using unsafe injections has resulted in the collection and safe disposal of a large number of needles and syringes. The campaign, which has been supported by religious and community leaders and volunteers from the local Red Cross, is thought to have raised public awareness of the associated risks considerably."
Also, surveillance teams have had better success in finding cases and tracing contacts, with support from religious and community leaders, the WHO said. "However, some new cases continue to be linked to exposure in homes and at funerals, indicating that public understanding of the disease still needs to be improved."
The agency said the risk for travelers to Angola is very low, because infection requires close personal contact with a patient. The WHO is not recommending any restrictions on travel to or trade with Angola.
Two days ago, the Angola Press Agency reported that the Federation Internationale de Football Association (FIFA), the world governing body for soccer, had decided to postpone an Angola-Algeria match from Jun 5 until Aug 17 because of the Marburg epidemic.
The report quoted a WHO representative in Angola, Fatoumata Diallo, as disagreeing with the postponement decision. Diallo said that the epidemic was "confined to a few localities in Uige" and that the country was "open for all people who want [to] get in or depart."
May 18 WHO statement