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Johannesburg Passenger Tested for Marburg

Recombinomics Commentary

April 20, 2005

>>  The sick passenger was taken to the Johannesburg Hospital for tests after arriving late on Tuesday from Angola's capital Luanda, officials said.

"At the moment we can not rule out Marburg ... The blood has been taken and we are waiting for the test results," said Popo Maja, spokesman for the Gauteng Province health department.

"The patient is stable and in an isolation ward," he said.

Maja said doctors were observing strict infection control measures, but were treating the man, from southern Angola, for malaria whose feverish symptoms are similar to the early stages of Marburg.  <<

Since the suspect patient is from southern Angola, it would seem more likely that he has a disease other than Marburg.  However, the true spread of Marburg is not clear.  This is due to the reluctance to report cases and the requirement for lab confirmation, which is a difficult requirement for many areas of Angola.  Early reports indicated that a lab confirmation was a difficult requirement for South Africa also, since they did not have a test for Marburg, and had to ship samples for the CDC in Atlanta for testing.

It is not clear if Johannesburg can now test for Marburg locally, but the volume of flights from Luanda to Johannesburg suggests more additional suspect cases will arrive.  If the patient is positive, it would indicate that Marburg spread is significantly more widespread than "official" tallies, which for many reasons appear to represent a serious undercount of Marburg cases in Angola.

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