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Three Ugandans die in deadly Marburg virus outbreak

KAMPALA (Reuters) - Three people have died in southwest Uganda from an outbreak of Marburg virus disease, officials said on Friday, a severe and highly fatal infection, just two weeks after the east African nation said it was free of the deadly Ebola virus.

Another four people who have died since October 4 were also suspected to have been killed by the disease, the Ugandan government said in a statement.

There is no vaccine or specific treatment for Marburg virus disease, also known as Marburg hemorrhagic fever, which is transmitted through bodily fluids such as saliva and blood, or by handling infected wild animals such as monkeys.

The disease, from the same family of viruses as Ebola, starts with severe headache and leads to hemorrhaging and, in previous outbreaks in Africa, to death in 80 percent or more of cases, usually within eight to nine days.

The last outbreak of Marburg in Uganda came in 2007 and killed two miners in the country's west. The latest outbreak comes after at least 16 people died from Ebola in August. In 2000, 425 people contracted Ebola in Uganda and more than half of them died.

A major outbreak of Marburg occurred among gold miners in the Democratic Republic of Congo between 1998 and 2000, causing 128 deaths out of 154 cases.

An outbreak in Angola in 2004-05 killed 150 people out of 163 cases, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).

Officials said all the three confirmed victims of the latest Marburg outbreak in Uganda were members of the same family.

A team of experts has been sent to Kabale, the site of the outbreak some 430 km (270 miles) from the capital Kampala, to conduct an investigation.

Efforts were also underway to track all people who had had contact with the victims, the government said. Authorities urged the public to avoid direct bodily contact with a person suffering from Marburg and unnecessary public gatherings.

(Reporting by Elias Biryabarema; Editing by Duncan Miriri and Jon Hemming)

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