Brothers' mystery illness identified

2010-09-10 18:41

Johannesburg - A syndrome associated with the Epstein Barr virus has been identified as the cause of the death of two brothers who died at the Olivedale Hospital recently, the hospital said on Friday.

"The illness that took the lives of two young men who were hospitalised and later died at Netcare Olivedale Hospital a number of days ago has been positively diagnosed," said Robert Jordaan, general manager of the hospital north of Johannesburg.

He quoted National Institute for Communicable Diseases' Professor Lucille Blumberg as saying: "As many people know the Epstein Barr virus (causing glandular fever) is a very common illness that affects 95% of people by early adulthood.

"Typically, it is a mild, self-limiting illness with no adverse outcome. People generally recover completely. In highly exceptional circumstances, in a very small number of people, this leads to a syndrome resulting in a massively disproportionate immune response to the presence of the Epstein Barr virus resulting in organ failure."

The syndrome affects less than one million individuals with the Epstein Barr virus infection.

People who had had contact with the brothers were in no danger and contact monitoring had stopped.

The Star reported that Ioannis and Giorgio Avgousti died at the weekend after a sudden onset of illness.