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Marburg Fever Confirmed In Colorado Patient

February 8, 2009

Authorities at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported that the country’s first case of Marburg hemorrhagic fever has been confirmed in a patient in Colorado.

The patient contracted the illness during a trip to Uganda, and has since recovered from the rare disease, which is caused by a virus indigenous to Africa.  The virus is spread through contact with infected animals or the bodily fluids of infected people.

Authorities did not disclose the identity of the patient.

A CDC spokesman said that no previous cases of Marburg hemorrhagic fever have been reported in the United States.

The patient had traveled to Uganda, and had spent time in a python cave in Maramagambo Forest in Queen Elizabeth Park, encountering fruit bats that can carry the Marburg virus.

The Ugandan government had closed the cave after a Dutch tourist died from Marburg in July.  The Colorado patient was treated in January 2008 at Lutheran Medical Center, and sought follow-up care in July after learning of the Dutch tourist’s death.

Pierre Rollin, acting chief of the Special Pathogens Branch of the CDC, told the AP that specialized tests of the initial sample obtained in January 2008 confirmed the illness.

Identifying the virus and determining the way in which a particular patient contracted it can be problematic, according to CDC officials.   It often depends on the timing and the quality of the sample being tested, since samples obtained early in the patient’s illness make it easier for authorities to identify the virus.

Marburg hemorrhagic fever is extremely rare. Indeed, fewer than 500 confirmed cases have been identified by the CDC since the virus was first recognized in 1967, the agency said on its Web site.   However, it is a serious disease, with more than 80 percent of the known cases having been fatal.

The Marburg virus has an incubation period of 5 to 10 days. Initial symptoms include headaches, fever and chills, which substantially worsen after the fifth day of illness.

Rollin said the CDC is testing hospital staff to determine whether any illnesses were undetected at the time.

Kim Kobel, a Lutheran hospital spokeswoman, said none of the staff and physicians who cared for the patient have developed symptoms of the disease.

Image Caption: Marburg virions (Image: CDC USA)

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