Fear fuels spread of deadly virus

FEAR and ignorance are fuelling the world’s deadliest outbreak of Marburg fever in Angola, where locals are too suspicious of medics in “astronaut” suits to let them take away infected loved ones, aid workers said yesterday.

Terrified residents stoned World Health Organisation (WHO) workers’ vehicles late last week, putting a brief halt to their operations to contain the disease in Uige province, northeast of Angola’s capital Luanda.

“We no longer have people coming to the isolation ward - people are hiding their patients at home because they’re scared. That means the virus keeps on spreading in the community,” Monica Castellarnau, emergency coordinator for Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) in Uige, said by phone from the area.

The outbreak has killed 192 of the 213 known cases. There is no cure for the disease, which is related to the Ebola virus.

“We’ve become scapegoats. That’s how people express their fear, grief and anger at the situation. They see we’ve got an isolation ward with very restricted access - they think we’re doing funny things,” Ms Castellarnau said.

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