Angola at critical stage in Marburg battle: WHO

Angola is at a critical stage in its battle against an outbreak of the Ebola-like Marburg virus, the World Health Organization warns.

Angola is at a critical stage in its battle against an outbreak of the Ebola-like Marburg virus, the World Health Organization warns.

Although the rate of new cases and deaths seems to be dropping, efforts must be stepped up to control the disease, the UN health agency said on Saturday.

"This is the critical moment where we have to put more pressure and more effort to try to see if we can control these outbreaks," said Michael Ryan, the WHO's chief emergency response coordinator.

The disease has killed 239 of the 266 people who fell ill in Angola, in the world's deadliest recorded outbreak of Marburg virus.

Health workers trying to curb the outbreak have been struggling with some people's belief that they were in fact spreading the disease.

The rumour gained extra momentum because many of them wore full-body contamination suits in white – a colour that many people in the region associated with witchdoctors.

However, the WHO said health workers have been overcoming that hostility and are now being called in to help the sick.

Their efforts have been boosted by the arrival two days earlier of 28 Angolan health workers freshly trained to deal with Marburg.

The virus can kill a healthy person in a week, causing diarrhea and vomiting followed by severe internal bleeding, and is passed on by contact with bodily fluids of patients or soiled clothing.

First detected in 1967, the disease killed 123 people between 1998 and 2000 in Democratic Republic of Congo in the worst outbreak until now.

With a report from Agence France-Presse