South African officials say new virus is contained

10:30, 30 October 2008
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It has already killed four people

A new virus that has killed four people and infected another in South Africa appears to have been contained, according to the most recent information posted by South African authorities on their website, according to Reuters.

The virus has been identified as a member of the arenavirus family, which also includes the germ that causes Lassa fever.

"There are currently no additional suspected cases," the National Institute for Communicable Diseases said in a posting dated Oct. 26, based on information received last week.

"The outbreak appears to be contained and has been confined to individuals with very close contact in a health-care setting."

Health officials could not be reached for comment on Wednesday.

The disease first infected a safari booking agent in Zambia who was flown to South Africa on Sept. 12 for treatment. She died two days later.

A paramedic who accompanied her, a nurse from her intensive care unit and a cleaner who worked in the hospital room also died. A fourth woman, also a nurse, is ill but in stable condition.

"The source of infection is, as yet, unknown for the primary case," the report said.

The patients first experienced flu-like symptoms but the illness worsened over the course of a week with diarrhoea, a sore throat and a rash on the face and throat.

Bleeding was not a prominent feature among the fatal cases, all of which lasted about 9 to 12 days and ended in rapid deterioration with troubled breathing and circulatory failure, the report said.

The posting said health authorities were monitoring about 30 people who may have come into contact with the patients.

Officials said say the common antiviral drug ribavirin appeared to help treat the disease.


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