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Health Care Workers in Uige Killed By Local Residents?

Recombinomics Commentary

April 8, 2005

>>  In addition, organization staff in Uige were notified Friday of several workers' fatalities, but teams were unable to investigate the causes of death or collect the bodies for burial. Discussions "to find urgent solutions" were under way with provincial authorities, the WHO said.

A WHO worker in Angola told CNN that health workers had been killed by residents who erroneously believed the workers were exposing them to the virus.

"The dramatic symptoms of Marburg hemorrhagic fever and its frequent fatality are resulting in a high level of fear, which is further aggravated by a lack of public understanding about the disease," the organization said. "Moreover, because the disease has no cure, hospitalization is not associated with a favorable outcome, and confidence in the medical care system has been eroded." <<

The above comment by a WHO worker suggests that the bodies that were being retrieved were not victims of a Marburg infection.  Instead, they were health care workers (HCWs) killed by local residents, who thought the HCWs were infecting patients.  It is unclear if this belief was based on superstition or the rumor that initial infected cases, who were predominantly children under the age of five, became infected from contaminated needles used in childhood vaccinations.

In either case, it appears that HCWs are dead, the mobile transportation units are damaged, and it is unsafe for WHO or HCWs  to interact with the local population in certain areas of Uige.  Since Uige is the epicenter of the Marburg outbreak, these conditions could seriously compromise collection of bodies and contact tracing. 

If the HCWs and WHO are viewed as the "enemy" by the local populace, control of the spread of Marburg by contact tracing and quarantine may be difficult.

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