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New Virus In Africa Has Killed 4 People

May 29, 2009

A new deadly virus has been discovered in Africa, scientists report. The “Lujo” virus has been found in five people in Zambia and South Africa.

Of the five people infected, only one survived. Researchers attribute the survival to medicine received.

“This one is really, really aggressive,” Dr. Ian Lipkin, a Columbia University epidemiologist who helped discover the virus, told the Associated Press.

Lipkin and colleagues reported on the virus in the online edition of PLoS Pathogens.

The first case of the virus was noted in September after a female travel agent from Lusaka, Zambia began complaining about a fever. The illness quickly got worse and the woman died after being sent to Johannesburg, South Africa for treatment.

One of the paramedics from Lusaka who treated the woman became sick and also died after being transported to Johannesburg.

The three others infected were health care workers in Johannesburg, according to the AP.

“It’s not a kind of virus like the flu that can spread widely,” said Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, which helped fund the research.

He said it primarily travels through body fluids.

Researchers noted that the virus is similar to Ebola because it resulted in severe bleeding. Other symptoms include fever, shock, coma and organ failure, said Stuart Nichol, chief of the molecular biology lab in the CDC’s Special Pathogens Branch.

The fifth Lujo patient ““ the one that survived ““ received a drug called ribavirin. The drug is given to victims of Lassa fever, which is a different disease found in Africa.

The Lujo virus was discovered in a matter of days thanks to the ability to use genetic sequencing techniques.

Image Caption: Transmission Electron Micrograph of the Ebola Virus. Hemorrhagic Fever, RNA Virus. CDC

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