SOME THOUGHTS ON THE ANGOLAN MARBURG OUTBREAK
suggests the Marburg outbreak in Angola may have begun as early as October or November,2004 : simmering almost undetected until late March of 2005.
Knowledgeable experts in the field of virology have suggested-because the initial cases all involved very young children-the infection itself might have been caused by childhood immunization shots,administered with improperly sterilized needles.
The big problem with this hypothesis is the lack of patients infected with Marburg before
the outbreak began.How did the needles (assuming they were
re-used) become contaminated in the first place ?
After doing a quick study of the country,the situation, and the terrain I believe I have a hypothesis that is a mite
Angola is a country in which diamonds can be found: the infamous "conflict diamonds"
that were used to finance 27 years of bloody civil war.All it takes to go into the diamond business is simple tools,knowledge of where to dig...and a willingness to risk on-the-spot execution by government troops.
Angola-once profoundly Marxist-now has what our State Department euphemistically calls " an elected government with a strong executive".Beset on all sides,and threatened from within,it uses most of its GNP on the equipment and maintainence of an army-dedicated (naturally) to keeping the existing President in power at all costs.
The people-especially those who live in the remote areas where things like Marburg erupt-are dirt poor.They should
be able to farm the rich soil-but the presence of landmines makes that a rather risky venture.A country that is certainly capable of sustaining itself is forced to import much of its food supply...which it sells to the people at a nice markup-with rich opportunities for official graft.( As might be imagined,there is little official interest in clearing the minefields !)
Nonetheless, the people have to eat,and they have to have some means of earning the money to feed their families...so,a lot of them sneak out into the diamond fields (another government monopoly) with their shovels and buckets.
My guess is-out there in the clay pits,where the diamonds are found,there are probably troops of monkeys:notably the same green monkeys
which carried a deadly virus into Marburg,Germany-killing several researchers,and giving this nasty filovirus its name.
Monkeys and humans don't always get along.Humans
,for one thing,are apt to eat
monkeys when "out in the bush"-which is why monkey meat is also called "bush meat".
Monkeys,for their part,often show their dislike of humans by pelting them with handfuls of freshly-produced feces.Should one of those monkeys be infected with Marburg,it seems reasonable to
suggest our intrepid diamond miners might bring home more than a fistful of valuable pebbles.
What is easier to imagine than a tired diamond hunter returning to the bosom of his family and embracing them warmly ?He himself,his wife,and the older children might actually be immune
-by reason of long exposure over a period of years-but the youngest might not be so fortunate.
There,you have one reasonably plausible scenario-in which no one need sneer at "the natives" for their re-use of needles,or blame "those stupid nurses" for the outbreak that is killing so many of them.