The United Nations has urgently appealed for US $3.5 million to intensify the fight against the deadly Marburg virus that has so far claimed 159 lives in Angola.
The appeal by UN agencies, including the World Health Organisation, the UN Children's Fund and the World Food Programme, is designed to support Angolan government efforts in the early detection and isolation of cases, the speedy tracing of people who have been in close contact with the virus, and preventing the disease from spreading.
"We are ... launching this appeal because the Marburg outbreak has become a national crisis," said Dr Fatoumata Binta Diallo, WHO's representative in Angola.
The Angolan flare-up of the haemorrhagic fever, officially the world's worst, has steadily escalated since October 2004, with 181 cases recorded as of 6 April - all originating in the northern province of Uige, about 200 kilometres from the capital, Luanda.
"The situation is very worrying: there is evidence that more provinces are involved - it certainly hasn't peaked yet," Diallo said. "This is not just a threat to human life, but to economic life."
Pierre-Francois Pirlot, the UN Resident Coordinator in Angola, said there was "no cause for panic", but acknowledged that there was a collective responsibility among UN agencies, the government and NGOs, such as Medicins Sans Frontieres and the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, to do more.
"The mobilisation of experts and equipment of recent weeks has been rapid, impressive and highly valued," he told reporters. "But the epidemic will require an all-out effort from all parties involved if it is to be controlled."
The money from the appeal will be used to boost surveillance and epidemiological services - including more protective materials for health workers, essential drugs and disinfectants - in both Uige and other provinces, in a bid to limit the spread of the virus.
It will also be used to set up field laboratories, isolation and intensive care units to help lower the mortality rate; comprehensive information campaigns to reduce public fear; and to improve the logistics network.
Marburg is an Ebola-like virus transmitted by direct contact with body fluids. Symptoms of the disease include high fever, haemorrhaging, vomiting and diarrhoea, which appear after an incubation period of two to 21 days. There is no known cure or vaccine.
This article was produced by IRIN News while it was part of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. Please send queries on copyright or liability to the UN. For more information: https://shop.un.org/rights-permissions
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