Published Date: 2005-05-12 23:50:00
Subject: PRO/EDR> Unexplained deaths - Congo Rep (02)
Archive Number: 20050512.1302
UNEXPLAINED DEATHS - CONGO REPUBLIC (02)
A ProMED-mail post
ProMED-mail is a program of the
International Society for Infectious Diseases
Date: 12 May 2005
From: A-Lan Banks <A-Lan.Banks@thomson.com>
Source: Independent Online (South Africa) [edited]
Ebola-like virus claims 8 lives in Congo
At least 8 people have died along Congo's north western border with Gabon
due to a disease caused by an Ebola-like virus, according to updated
figures released by the health minister on Wednesday.
The minister, Alphonse Gando, said the mysterious disease had claimed 8
lives since 4 May  among 11 cases recorded in the Itoumbi and Mbomo
districts, located respectively 700km and 900km north-west of the capital
of the Central African country.
Health officials were trying to find 56 people suspected of close contact
with the dead and sick patients, the ministry said. Ebola is a highly
According to information collected by health officials, the 1st cases
appeared among Itoumbi villagers who had gone elephant hunting in the bush.
"All the victims were great hunters. They touched a monkey they found dead
in the forest and then ate it," Gando said. This is one way an Ebola
outbreak can start.
Northern Gabon and Congo have been hit by several Ebola epidemics which
have claimed 361 lives since 1994. In Angola, the Ebola-like Marburg virus
has so far killed 284 people, mostly in the northern province of Uige,
where the world's deadliest outbreak of the rare disease started 6 months
ago. Both viral infections spread through contact with bodily fluids. The
incubation period for the virus, or the amount of time it takes between
when patients are infected and fall ill, can be as long as 21 days.
There is no cure for the virus, whose exact origin is unknown and which was
first detected in 1967 when West German laboratory workers in the town of
Marburg were infected by monkeys from Uganda.
The most serious outbreak of the Marburg virus until now had been in the
Democratic Republic of Congo, where 123 people died between 1998 and 2000.
[The 1st posting on this outbreak (Unexplained deaths - Congo Rep: RFI
20050510.1286 [originally entitled, in error, Unexplained deaths - Congo DR
(Cuvette West): RFI]) reported 5 deaths. This 2nd posting is dated 2 days
later and reports 8 deaths due to this as-yet-undiagnosed outbreak with
clinical features reported to be similar to those of Ebola hemorrhagic
fever. The additional information on the history of contact with a dead
monkey (that was subsequently consumed, thereby having been
handled/manipulated by hunters with exposure to body fluids and blood of
the dead monkey), combined with the geographic location of this outbreak
(see prior ProMED-mail postings listed below), make a diagnosis of Ebola
hemorrhagic fever more likely, as this very much fits the pattern seen in
In the earlier posting we queried as to whether there had been recent
reports of primate die-offs in the region, as this has been an early
warning sign of introduction of the Ebola virus into the human population,
usually through the above-mentioned mechanism of preparing a sick or dead
monkey found in the forest for consumption. We await final laboratory
confirmation and further epidemiologic information on this outbreak. - Mod.MPP]