South African dies of suspected deadly virus in Rio

RIO DE JANEIRO (Reuters) - Brazilian health officials were monitoring people in Rio de Janeiro for possible infections on Wednesday, after a South African man on a business trip died of a suspected hemorrhagic virus.

The body of the 53-year-old man, who arrived in Brazil on November 23 and began showing symptoms two days later, was being repatriated to South Africa in a zinc-sealed coffin, the Ministry of Health said in a statement.

Brazilian media reported officials as saying he may have been infected when he was a patient at a hospital in South Africa where four people died from a new strain of arenavirus, which also includes the germ that causes Lassa fever.

The health ministry said it had not confirmed that information, but said one of the suspected causes of death was the arenavirus, which is spread through the excrement or blood of rats and between humans through saliva or other body fluids.

It said it had discounted the deadly Ebola virus, but was still investigating whether the man, whose name was not given, could have been killed by hepatitis or leptospirosis, which is also transmitted by rodents.

The Globo network said on its website that about 50 people, including workers at the hospital where the man died and people who had been at a training course with him, were being monitored by health officials. The health ministry did not confirm that figure, saying only that some people were being monitored.

South African authorities had said at the end of October that the new virus appeared to have been contained.

The disease first infected a safari-booking agent in Zambia who was flown to South Africa on September 12 for treatment. She died two days later. A paramedic who accompanied her, a nurse from her intensive care unit and a cleaner who worked in the hospital room also died.

(Reporting by Stuart Grudgings, editing by Philip Barbara)

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