Dutch Woman Dies from Contagious Bat Fever Caught in African Caves

A Dutch woman has died from Marburg fever, a rare virus believed to have been caught from bats while she was touring caves in Uganda, hospital officials said Friday.

To avoid an outbreak of the highly contagious disease, similar to the Ebola virus, health authorities said they have been in touch with everyone known to have had contact with the 40-year-old woman since she returned to the Netherlands at the end of June.

So far, no one else has reported symptoms, the National Institute for Public Health and Environment said.

It is the first known case of a tourist catching Marburg virus. Previous outbreaks have largely struck African miners and hunters.

The World Health Organization said no effort was made to notify passengers on the plane who flew from Uganda with the woman. The virus has an incubation period of five to 10 days.

The woman, whose name has not been released, died Thursday night, said Marlene van Toever, a spokeswoman at the Leiden University Medical Center.

Her symptoms began a few days after she returned to the Netherlands and she was admitted to a regional hospital July 5. Two days later she was transferred to Leiden with liver failure and severe hemorrhaging.

The woman had traveled in the African country for three weeks last month. She is likely to have contracted the disease from contact with at least one fruit bat when she visited the "python cave" in the Maramagambo Forest on June 19.

Last year, there was a small outbreak of Marburg virus in the same region of Uganda.

Van Toever said the woman was kept isolated after her arrival in the hospital, and medical personnel had worn protective suits.

Roel Coutinho, director of the Netherlands Center for Disease Control, said people who had contact with the woman before July 2, when she first showed symptoms, were not in danger.

"Patients with Marburg are not infectious as long as they are not ill," he told The Associated Press.

The woman had contact with about 50 people before she was transferred to Leiden, and they all have been asked to take their temperature twice daily and isolate themselves if they have symptoms, Coutinho said.

Marburg virus can cause massive bleeding in multiple parts of the body and is thought to be spread by body fluids. There is no treatment or vaccine.

The fever was first identified during an outbreak in Europe in 1967, with a virus that arrived in monkeys imported from Uganda.

As of last year, about 450 cases had been reported. The worst outbreak was in Angola in 2004-2005 when 90 percent of the 252 people known to be afflicted died, said the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Another major outbreak of 154 people in the Democratic Republic of Congo in 1998-2000 had a fatality rate of 83 percent.