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Just prior to this report going to press it happened again, an Ebola outbreak. It occurred surprisingly far to the west this time, in Guinea, and is caused by a new viral strain of Ebola-Zaire (EBO-Z). With a fatality rate of 70-80 per cent, it is just as deadly as the strains known from central Africa. Virologists of the Institute together with European colleagues are on site to carry out rapid and reliable diagnostics.
On August 27, 2014, a special aircraft arrived at Hamburg airport, carrying an Ebola patient from Sierra Leone to be treated at the University Medical Center Hamburg-Eppendorf (UKE). The patient’s samples were closely followed for viral load and infectivity by polymerase chain reaction (PCR) and by viral cultures in Vero cells, respectively.
As the EMLabs performed diagnostics from the beginning of the Ebola outbreak, we collected patient samples at various sites throughout the epidemic.
In March 2014, an outbreak of a febrile illness with vomiting, severe diarrhoea, and high fatality was reported to the World Health Organisation (WHO) from Guinea, West Africa. Virological examination indicated that it was an Ebola outbreak.
Presumably more than a thousand people in Nigeria die from Lassa fever each year. There had been no laboratories there for diagnosing the infection, and disease symptoms initially cannot be separated from those of many other tropical diseases.
A 41-year-old woman from the Netherlands became ill with fever four days after returning from holidays in east Africa. The illness was initially diagnosed as malaria. Full organ failure developed within a few days acompanied by generalised haemorrhages, and despite most modern intensive care, the patient died of cerebral oedema.
Haemorrhagic Lassa fever occurs if Lassa viruses can replicate very rapidly in the human body. To this end, a virus protein called nucleoprotein is of great importance.