Musicians fight back against Marburg

Three musicians are recording a song about the killer Marburg virus in the northern Angolan city of Uige—just one example of actions taken by ordinary citizens who want to stamp out the Ebola-like bug now claiming up to 10 lives a day.

The Trio against Marburg, as the three call themselves, is a collaboration between Amadeu Cardoso Jnr on drums and “Kitoko” and Combo Andre “Cobra” on acoustic guitars.

They sing about the disease that killed a fellow friend and artist, known as Nero, and try to pull Angolans out of their state of denial about the epidemic that has claimed more than 200 lives in the poor Southern African country.

“This is a homage to Nero, the most famous musician in Uige, who, together with his wife, daughter, grandson and nephew, were killed by Marburg a few days ago,” Cardoso said on Tuesday as the band members enjoyed a beer after a practice session in a small flat in central Uige.

“We are also doing this in solidarity with the international community who have come to help us and to tell people what it is all about,” he said as the band strummed up for another run of the Song against Marburg.

“Marburg, leave our people in peace. We are going to kick you out of this country,” goes the song in Portuguese.

The awareness song has won over the World Health Organisation (WHO), which has sent legions of health experts to Uige, the epicentre of the epidemic, to try to contain the outbreak.

Once recorded, the WHO will ensure that it is played on local radio and from loudspeakers on rooftops and cars driving around in neighborhoods of the city of about 200 000 people where the virus was discovered in October.

The Trio against Marburg is also to perform at concerts and a music video is to be shot in front of Uige’s hospitals.

In Uige, about 300km north of the capital, Luanda, 184 people have died out of the nationwide toll of 203, according to the health ministry and the WHO.

Health experts have run into resistance in Uige where burial traditions dictate that relatives spend a long time in presence of a body, the most contagious part of the virus.

Isolation of victims is the only way to slow the spread of the disease, for which there are no drugs or vaccine, and which can kill a healthy person in a week by diarrhoea and vomiting followed by severe internal bleeding.

“We are getting in experts in the field ... people who can speak Portuguese and local languages.
We are getting local musicians to help us and we are translating pamphlets based on the findings of our anthropologists,” said Nestor Ndayimirije, a medical epidemiologist from Burundi who heads the Uige WHO team.

At Uige’s “school 68”, about 2 600 children and a group of 78 teachers have started their own awareness campaign after one of the teachers died of Marburg last week.

“Three days a week, we assemble the children and the teachers to explain what Marburg is and how they can protect themselves against it,” said Alfonso Juan, the school’s deputy director.

The Marburg virus, whose exact origin is unknown, spreads through contact with bodily fluids such as blood, excrement, vomit, saliva, sweat and tears, but can be contained with relatively simple health precautions, according to experts.

A total of 221 cases of the Marburg virus have been discovered in Angola, out of which 203 resulted in death, putting the mortality rate countrywide from the outbreak at 92%, the health ministry and the WHO said on Monday.—Sapa-AFP

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