May 16, 2005 (CIDRAP News) – Nine people have died in the Republic of Congo from a hemorrhagic disease that authorities are describing as “Ebola-like,” and at least another 52 people who had contact with the victims are being monitored, according to news reports today.The prelude to the cluster of deaths follows a plot that could be lifted from past Ebola outbreaks. A hunting party from Itoumbi and Mbomo districts, several hundred kilometers north of Brazzaville, the capital, encountered a dead monkey and ate it, according to Alphonse Gando, the Congo Republic’s minister of health, as reported by Agence France-Presse (AFP) on May 12.Ebola is a highly contagious filovirus that can cause a gruesome death following hemorrhaging and is lethal in 50% to 90% of cases. Although there is no treatment and little is understood about its animal reservoir, contact with primates has been known to precipitate human outbreaks. The Congo Republic and neighboring Gabon have had several Ebola outbreaks, which have killed about 360 people since 1994, AFP reported.”We don’t have lab confirmation yet, but it has all the features of an Ebola outbreak,” said Dick Thompson, a World Health Organization spokesman, as quoted in a New York Times story today.Congo Republic health officials have moved quickly since the outbreak began in late April to investigate and stop the spread of the disease, according to the Times. This may indicate the country is learning how to cope with such outbreaks, Thompson told the newspaper.In nearby Angola, authorities are still struggling with the deadliest known outbreak of a similar hemorrhagic disease caused by the Marburg virus. New cases were still being reported, Reuters news service reported today, despite repeated announcements from local authorities that the outbreak was coming under control.”The outbreak is not over,” Aphaluck Bhatiasevi of the WHO told Reuters. The death toll stood at 292, with 336 known cases, Reuters reported. WHO numbers reported May 11 were lower: 316 known cases and 276 deaths.Authorities seemed most concerned about the appearance of apparently unrelated cases. “We’ve seen new cases in new municipalities that don’t have obvious links to earlier cases of Marburg,” Bhatiasevi said. “We are trying to do as much tracing as possible.”Preventing the spread of Marburg as a byproduct of certain traditional practices, particularly cleaning the dead before burial, continues to be a challenge for healthcare workers, Jose Van Dunem, a deputy health minister, told Reuters. Six traditional healers have died, but others are beginning to change their habits, he added.See also:May 13 WHO statement on Congo Republic outbreakhttp://www.who.int/csr/don/2005_05_13/en/index.htmlMay 11 WHO statement on Marburg outbreak in Angolahttp://www.who.int/csr/don/2005_05_11/en/index.html
… Khawaja, Harris dumpedBy Ian Ransom MELBOURNE, Australia (Reuters) – Australia selectors have shaken up the squad’s underperforming batting lineup for the two-Test series against Pakistan by dumping top order batsmen Usman Khawaja and Marcus Harris while handing a surprise recall to Cameron Bancroft.Opener Harris averaged 9.66 against England in the last three Tests of the Ashes and has been jettisoned in favour of Queensland’s Joe Burns for the series, which starts in Brisbane on November 21.Burns has been recalled after being snubbed for the Ashes despite having scored 180 in the previous Test against Sri Lanka in Canberra in February. Khawaja, once among Australia’s first picks, was dropped after the third Ashes Test at Leeds and has failed to find form for home state Queensland.Bancroft may consider himself the luckiest in the 14-man squad released yesterday having been given another chance after being dumped two Tests into the Ashes.He was a late call-up for the Australia A team that played Pakistan in a tour game this week after Nic Maddinson pulled out for mental health reasons. He scored 49 from 155 balls in the first innings, which turned out to be the team’s top score as the rest of the Test hopefuls failed in the unofficial audition in Perth.Harris, however, may have cause to feel aggrieved having had a stronger first class season in the domestic Sheffield Shield than Bancroft.Selector Trevor Hohns said Bancroft’s ability to play in the middle order as well as at the top had been in his favour. “He’s got the ingredients of being a very good Test match player, he’s a hard worker,” Hohns told reporters in Perth of the 26-year-old Western Australian who has averaged 26.23 from his 10 Tests. “And the improvement in his game is very noticeable.” Middle order batsman Travis Head, who had a poor series in England and was dropped for the final Test, has been retained.After strong domestic form, uncapped bowling all-rounder Michael Neser has been included along with pacemen Pat Cummins, Josh Hazlewood, Mitchell Starc and James Pattinson.Cricket Australia (CA) announced earlier yesterday that promising young batsman Will Pucovski had withdrawn from selection for “mental wellbeing” reasons. Hohns said the uncapped 21-year-old’s decision came before selectors had finalised the squad. Pucovski, who pulled out of the Test squad in January for similar reasons, became the third Australian cricketer to report mental health problems to staff in just over two weeks.All-rounder Glenn Maxwell remains on an indefinite break after pulling out midway the Twenty20 series against Sri Lanka.“I think we should be quite proud and pleased in our sport, players are comfortable coming out and talking about (mental health),” said Hohns.“It’s just happening more and more in everyday life.” Tim Paine’s Australia meet Pakistan in the second Test in Adelaide on November 29. Australia squad: Tim Paine (c), Cameron Bancroft, Joe Burns, Pat Cummins, Josh Hazlewood, Travis Head, Marnus Labuschagne, Nathan Lyon, Michael Neser, James Pattinson, Steve Smith, Mitchell Starc, Matthew Wade, David Warner.