Ebola virus outbreak in Africa

J Ownbey jownbey at cbrc.mgh.harvard.edu
Wed May 10 11:12:24 EST 1995

I found this at: http://taiga.geog.niu.edu/news.html
Hope its okay to reprint it....If not sorry.

WHO says world safe from Zaire deadly fever-virus 

(c) Copyright the News & Observer Publishing Co.


GENEVA (9:36 a.m.) - The World Health Organization (WHO) said Wednesday 
a deadly virus
could be the cause of fever outbreaks which have killed scores of people 
in a remote region of Zaire
this year.

But WHO officials sought to play down fears that the fever -- compared 
in reports with a panic
virus scenario in a current U.S. thriller film "Outbreak" -- might 
spread outside the central African

In Kinshasa, the Zaire capital, the government set up a special medical 
commission to handle the
situation. Government sources said at least 90 people had died so far 
amid fears that it may be the
deadly Ebola virus, an incurable "doomsday" disease.

A WHO statement said an international team of its own experts with 
others from the United States,
France and South Africa had been sent to Kikwit in Zaire's Bandundu 
Province 250 miles west of

Since Jan. 1, there had been 189 cases and 59 deaths in an outbreak of 
bloody diarrhoea and 33
cases of suspected haemorrhagic fever, the statement said. At least two 
Italian nuns working as
nurses are known to be among the dead.

"The cause of the outbreaks has yet to be determined, but Ebola virus, a 
highly fatal virus known
to have occurred in Zaire, is a possible cause of hemorrhagic fever," 
the statement from the office
of WHO specialists said.

Similar outbreaks caused by Ebola -- which primarily affects monkeys and 
other animals but
occasionally jumps to humans -- occurred in Zaire in 1976 and Sudan in 
1979, according to the
Geneva-based United Nations body.

More than 500 people were infected and mortality rates were around 80 
per cent. But WHO
officials said although there was no known antidote both outbreaks were 
relatively easily contained
by strict health measures.

"There is absolutely no reason to believe that this would not be the 
same this time if Ebola is
identified," said one WHO official. "Everybody has been talking about 
'Outbreak', but it's not like
that at all."

In the film, which stars Dustin Hoffman as a virus expert and Donald 
Sutherland as a maniacal
U.S. general, hundreds of people in a small California town are infected 
by a virus carried by a pet
monkey brought from Zaire.

But the "Outbreak" virus was spread through the air. The WHO officials 
said Ebola infection is
only spread by very close contact and that nursing staff can be 
protected by wearing masks and
other protective clothing when working with patients.

Other measures to to contain it included suspension of all vaccination 
programs. In the earlier two
outbreaks, many people had been infected by syringes which had not been 
properly sterilized after

Samples of blood from victims of the latest outbreaks have been sent to 
the U.S. government's
Center for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, Ga., which has 
representatives in the WHO
team sent to Zaire.

The WHO statement said the team "will assist in confirming the 
diagnosis, advise local health
officials on patent care, and assist in efforts to contain the 

Infection with the Ebola virus, named after a river in northern Zaire, 
produces fever, hemorrhage
and vomiting as internal body tissues and organs dissolve. Death 
normally comes within six days.

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