World Health Organization: Stay away from Ugandan caves

Sunday, July 13, 2008

An electron micrograph of the Marburg virus.
Image: CDC.

The World Health Organization (WHO) has told people to stay away from Ugandan caves with bats, due to the fact that a tourist visiting Uganda was recently killed by the fatal Marburg virus. Health authorities in the Netherlands said that the forty-year-old tourist contracted the disease from fruit bats in a cave.

A spokesperson for WHO said that "it is an isolated case of imported Marburg." He continued, "people should not think about amending their travel plans to Uganda but should not go into caves with bats."

An Egyptian fruit bat
Image: Adrian Pingstone.

The Health Ministry of Uganda advised people who have to enter caves in Uganda that they should exercise "maximum precaution not to get into close contact with the bats and non-human primates in the nearby forests".

Marburg virus causes Marburg hemorrhagic fever, which is related to Ebola. It is believed that humans first caught the virus from Egyptian fruit bats.

The first Ugandan case of the virus occurred approximately a year ago; it involved a 29-year-old man who became symptomatic on July 4 and died on July 14. A co-worker of the man had previously suffered from a similar disease, although he survived.

The Soviet Union also reportedly prepared Marburg virus samples for use as a biological weapon in the time of war.


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