Even as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to rage, the World Health Organisation on Monday confirmed the first case of Marburg disease. Belonging to the same group of viruses as Ebola, the highly infectious hemorrhagic fever has a case fatality ratio of up to 88%. Much like COVID-19, it is passed to humans from animal hosts.
Prolonged exposure to mines or caves inhabited by Rousettus bat colonies can lead to the initial infection. According to WHO, Marburg virus disease (MVD), spreads through human-to-human transmission via direct contact (through broken skin or mucous membranes) with the blood, secretions, organs or other bodily fluids of infected people, and with surfaces and materials (e.g. bedding, clothing) contaminated with these fluids. The incubation period for the virus varies from two to 21 days.
This is the first time that MVD has been identified in West Africa. The continent has a whole has seen several outbreaks over the last few decades. According to WHO, the patient identified in Guinea has since succumbed to the illness.
"The potential for the Marburg virus to spread far and wide means we need to stop it in its tracks. We are working with the health authorities to implement a swift response that builds on Guinea’s past experience and expertise in managing Ebola, which is transmitted in a similar way," the WHO Regional Director for Africa tweeted. An initial team of WHO experts, Matshidiso Moeti added, were already on ground.
Illness caused by Marburg virus begins abruptly, with high fever, severe headache and muscle pain and severe malaise. Many patients develop severe haemorrhagic manifestations within 7 days, and fatal cases usually have bleeding, often from multiple areas. In fatal cases, death usually occurs between eight and nine days after onset, usually preceded by severe blood loss and shock.
Other symptoms can include severe watery diarrhoea, abdominal pain and cramping, nausea and vomiting and can give patients a “ghost-like” appearance with drawn features, deep-set eyes, expressionless faces and extreme lethargy. Involvement of the central nervous system can result in confusion, irritability and aggression.
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