Map of life expectancy at birth from Global Education Project.

Monday, April 11, 2005

Not the Big One

Readers have asked me to comment on the outbreak of Marburg virus in Angola. These hemhorragic fevers (Ebola virus is the more famous one) are definitely nasty. They have a 25% fatality rate with good supportive care, more like 80% in the conditions pertaining in most of Africa. There is no antiviral treatment, and no vaccine. The symptoms are horrific.

However, contagion requires direct contact with the bodily fluids of an infected person, although contaminated surfaces can remain infectious for some time. Since infected people get very obviously sick very quickly, unknowing contact is unlikely. The people either die or recover in a couple of weeks, so they aren't walking around spreading pathogens. These outbreaks can occur in Africa because of inadequate medical facilities, mistrust of medical personnel, and funerary and caregiving practices. They do not currently threaten a more widespread epidemic, although they could conceivably mutate and become more contagious.

If you're interested in the straight dope, here's what CDC has to say: CDC info on Marburg

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