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Hemorrhagic fever in Germany

Michael Hevey mhevey at earthlink.net
Fri Aug 6 01:06:49 EST 1999


4 August 1999

Suspected hemorrhagic fever in Germany

WHO has been informed that one man has been admitted to hospital in Berlin
suffering from suspected hemorrhagic fever. He had recently returned from a
trip to Côte d'Ivoire, where he had visited remote rural areas. Diagnostic
tests are being conducted in a German laboratory for a range of viral
hemorrhagic fevers and other relevant pathogens.  WHO is in contact with the
German Ministry of Health and the WHO Representative in Côte d'Ivoire.

Suspected German Ebola Man Fights For Life
02:01 p.m Aug 05, 1999 Eastern
By Deborah Cole

BERLIN (Reuters) - A 40-year-old German television cameraman was battling
what doctors said might be the deadly Ebola virus and was in worsening
condition Thursday after he became ill following a recent trip to West

Lying in a sterile plastic tent and treated by medical staff wearing
hermetically sealed clothing, TV cameraman Olaf Ullman needed emergency
treatment as his liver and kidneys began to fail.

A friend who accompanied him to the Ivory Coast was also in quarantine,
health officials said. But along with Ullman's wife and the second man's
girlfriend, who also made the trip, he was showing no symptoms.

The precise diagnosis was not known, although German newspapers splashed the
story as the ``Ebola Scare!'' Doctors at the Berlin isolation hospital
played down the chances of a more widespread outbreak, whatever the disease
turned out to be.

Swissair, the airline that flew the four home Sunday via Zurich, said it had
handed its passenger lists over to German authorities as part of standard
procedures in such cases.

``The patient's health has unfortunately deteriorated,'' hospital
spokeswoman Kerstin Ullrich told reporters. ``He is confused. He doesn't
know who he is or who is around him.''

``The people in direct contact with the patient can only reach him through
plastic, with plastic gloves.''

Doctors who airlifted Ullmann from his hometown of Frankfurt-an-der-Oder Tue
sday fear he may have a viral hemorrhagic fever. Chief among these are
Marburg, lassa or dengue fever and the particularly lethal Ebola.

Ebola causes bleeding through the mouth, intestines and skin and contact
with the blood can spread the virus.

All that can be done is to treat symptoms and hope the patient pulls
through. Ebola killed 81 percent of those who fell sick in a 1995 outbreak
in Zaire, now the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

Hans-Herbert Schmitz, a virology expert at Hamburg's Berhard Nocht Institute
for Tropical Medicine who has experience of working with Ebola in Africa,
said: ``There has never been a case in Europe where an Ebola patient has
infected someone else. So it is unlikely the virus will be passed on here.''

Authorities erected a 6-foot-high fence around the isolation ward where
Ullmann was hospitalized and deployed security guards to patrol the area.
The tight measures have sparked frenzied media speculation about the risk to
the public.

``Will his fellow passengers spread the virus around Europe, could tens of
thousands of people already be affected?'' asked Germany's mass-readership
Bild newspaper.

Two hotlines have been set up for worried Germans to telephone. Camera teams
and photographers were lined up at the gate to the Charite treatment center
from the early morning.

But doctors on the wooded grounds of the hospital said they were frustrated
by the media attention and the disruption.

``This media circus is just what a patient in such a condition does not
need,'' said doctor Birgit Zippel.

Copyright 1999 Reuters Limited. All rights reserved. Republication and
redistribution of Reuters content is expressly prohibited without the prior
written consent of Reuters. Reuters shall not be liable for any errors or
delays in the content, or for any actions taken in reliance thereon.

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