updated 2/8/2009 3:46:06 PM ET 2009-02-08T20:46:06

The first U.S. case of Marburg hemorrhagic fever has been confirmed in Colorado, and authorities say the patient — who contracted the rare illness while traveling in Uganda — has since recovered.

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The disease, caused by a virus indigenous to Africa, spreads through contact with infected animals or the bodily fluids of infected humans. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention spokesman Dave Daigle said no previous cases have been reported in the United States.

The patient had traveled to Uganda, visited a python cave in Maramagambo Forest in Queen Elizabeth Park and encountered fruit bats, which can carry the Marburg virus. The Ugandan government closed the cave after a tourist from the Netherlands died from Marburg in July.

The patient was treated at Lutheran Medical Center in January 2008 and sought follow-up care in July, after learning of the tourist's death. The patient recovered and his or her identity wasn't disclosed.

Pierre Rollin, acting chief of the Special Pathogens Branch of the CDC, said specialized tests of the initial sample taken in January 2008 confirmed the illness in the Colorado patient in December.

CDC officials said identifying the virus and how a patient contracted it can be difficult. It often depends on the quality of the sample being tested and the timing; samples taken early in the patient's illness makes identification easier, Rollin said.

Marburg hemorrhagic fever is extremely rare. The CDC's Web site counts fewer than 500 confirmed cases since the virus was first recognized in 1967. More than 80 percent of the known cases are fatal.

It has an incubation period of 5 to 10 days. The first symptoms are fever, chills and headaches, but symptoms worsen significantly after the fifth day of illness.

Lutheran hospital spokeswoman Kim Kobel said none of the staff and physicians who cared for the patient has developed symptoms.

Rollin said the CDC is testing hospital staff to see if any illnesses were undetected at the time.

Copyright 2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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