Rare Marburg virus kills 5 in Uganda

CBS News

Five people in Uganda are dead after contracting a rare disease that is related to the Ebola virus, officials confirmed on Monday.

Marburg virus, which causes Marburg hemorrhagic fever, is believed to be resurfacing in the Kabale district, Reuters reported. Infection spread to the capital, Kampala, after an infected woman traveled to the city. A spokesperson for the Ugandan Ministry of Health said that 34 people are being monitored for possible infection.

The World Health Organization confirmed that Marburg virus was active in Uganda. It declared an outbreak after blood samples from three cases were confirmed to have the virus.

The Marburg virus is a member of the filovirus family, which includes all five different types of Ebola virus. However, authorities have said that this Marburg outbreak in Uganda is not related to the outbreak of Ebola earlier this year, according to WHO. The WHO identified twenty-four cases of Ebola virus by the time the outbreak was contained in early October, resulting in 17 deaths.

After an incubation period of five to 10 days, people with Marburg experience fever, chills, headache and muscle pain. Five days later, a rash across the chest, back and stomach may be observed. Nausea, vomiting, chest pain, sore throat, abdominal pain and diarrhea may also occur, and symptoms become worse as time goes on. There is no cure, and recovery with hospital therapy may take a long period of time.

The disease can be contracted by humans and non-human primates, and is transmitted through direct contact with the blood, body fluids and tissues of infected patients. A person can also become infected through the handling of sick or dead infected animals. People who are in close contact with humans, including doctors and medical support staff, or non-human primates are at risk.

Because many of the symptoms are similar to other infectious diseases, it may be hard to diagnose. The disease is fatal in 23 to 90 percent of the cases, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. A laboratory-associated outbreak in 1967 killed 25 percent of the infected, while an outbreak in Angola in late 2004 killed almost 90 percent of the victims. The disease was last reported in Uganda in 2008, Ugandan news organization The Independent reported.

Officials became aware of a possible Marburg outbreak after they were alerted to the fact that a family had lost four people to a mysterious cause in just a month, The Independent said. The funeral was halted so samples could be taken. The family and relatives have been quarantined to make sure they do they do further spread the disease, Kabale district health officer Dr. Patrick Tusiime told Ugandan news service The Observer.

Three of the people who had died during this current outbreak were members of the family of the woman who had traveled to Kampala, officials added to Reuters.