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Scientists find new killer virus in Africa

Scientists have identified a lethal new virus in Africa that causes bleeding like the dreaded Ebola virus.

world Updated: May 29, 2009 11:01 IST

Scientists have identified a lethal new virus in Africa that causes bleeding like the dreaded Ebola virus.

The so-called "Lujo" virus infected five people in Zambia and South Africa last fall. Four of them died, but a fifth survived, perhaps helped by a medicine recommended by the scientists.

It's not clear how the first person became infected, but the bug comes from a family of viruses found in rodents, said Dr. Ian Lipkin, a Columbia University epidemiologist involved in the discovery.

"This one is really, really aggressive" he said of the virus.

A paper on the virus by Lipkin and his collaborators was published online yesterday on in PLoS Pathogens.

The outbreak started in September, when a female travel agent who lives on the outskirts of Lusaka, Zambia, became ill with a fever-like illness that quickly grew much worse.

She was airlifted to Johannesburg, South Africa, where she died.

A paramedic in Lusaka who treated her also became sick, was transported to Johannesburg and died.