August 11 (IndiaToday) – While the world suffers from the deadly impact of coronavirus, the World Health Organization (WHO) has confirmed the first case of another viral infection in West Africa. Marburg disease, which is carried by bats and has a fatality rate of up to 88 per cent, was found in samples taken from a patient who died on August 2.
The first case has been reported in southern Gueckedou prefecture, and Dr Matshidiso Moeti, WHO Regional Director for Africa said, “The potential for the Marburg virus to spread far and wide means we need to stop it in its tracks.”
The new case comes just two months after the WHO declared an end to Guinea’s second outbreak of Ebola, which started last year and claimed 12 lives. The Marburg is usually associated with exposure to caves or mines housing colonies of Rousettus bats.
What is Marburg virus?
Marburg is a highly virulent disease that causes hemorrhagic fever and is in the same family of viruses that cause Ebola. According to WHO, two large outbreaks that occurred simultaneously in Marburg and Frankfurt in Germany, and in Belgrade, Serbia, in 1967, led to the first recognition of the disease.
The outbreaks were part of laboratory work using African green monkeys (Cercopithecus aethiops) imported from Uganda. “Human infection with Marburg virus disease initially results from prolonged exposure to mines or caves inhabited by Rousettus bat colonies,” WHO said.
Once an individual is infected with the virus, Marburg can spread through human-to-human transmission through direct contact, with the blood, secretions, organs or other bodily fluids of infected people, and from surfaces and materials contaminated with these fluids.
The virus has an incubation period of two to 21 days. In 2008, two independent cases were reported in travellers who visited a cave inhabited by Rousettus bat colonies in Uganda.
Symptoms of Marburg disease
The person infected with the virus will experience high fever, severe headache and severe malaise accompanied by Muscle aches and pains. Meanwhile, severe watery diarrhoea, abdominal pain and cramping, nausea and vomiting will begin on third day, which can persist for a week. “The appearance of patients at this phase has been described as showing “ghost-like” drawn features, deep-set eyes, expressionless faces and extreme lethargy,” WHO said.
Fatal cases usually have bleeding, often from multiple areas including vomits and feces often accompanied by bleeding from the nose, gums and vagina. Involvement of the central nervous system can result in confusion, irritability and aggression, the global health agency said,
Death usually occurs between 8 and 9 days after onset, usually preceded by severe blood loss and shock.
What is treatment for Marburg disease?
WHO said that it can be difficult to clinically distinguish Marburg virus disease from other infectious diseases such as malaria, typhoid fever, shigellosis, meningitis. The diagnostic of the virus can be done using antigen detection tests, serum neutralization tests, virus isolation by cell culture or through RT-PCR.
While a range of potential treatments including blood products, immune therapies and drug therapies are currently being evaluated, there is no proven treatment or vaccine available for Marburg virus disease. Rehydration with oral or intravenous fluids can be analysed to delay the outcomes.