Cause Of Illness Identified In Olivedale Deaths

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10 September 2010

Two brothers residents in Gauteng died this last week at the Olivedale Hospital in Johannesburg as a result of liver failure induced by a very severe and very rare form of Ebstein Barr virus infection.
 
Extensive testing has been done to rule out other causes of their illness. All tests for the viral haemorrhagic fevers and related conditions are negative. While Ebstein Barr is a very common infection, most people have been infected by the time they are young adults and illness when it occurs is typically mild, with an uncomplicated, self- limiting course.
 
In a very small number of people affected, severe disease can occur and this is generally in association with a specific underlying immune problem.  These people respond specifically to the Ebstein Barr virus by an overreaction of the immune system that causes organ damage.
Further tests will be done to investigate this in these patients.  Contacts of these patients are in no way at risk of severe infection. The monitoring of close contacts has been discontinued as there is no risk to contacts.
 
Issued by the National Institute for Communicable Diseases, a division of the National Health Laboratory Service
 
For further questions please contact Nombuso Shabalala on 011 555 0545 or 082 886 4238