the Marburg virus has just appeared in Guinea a country on the west African coast. A WHO team has been deployed to help the local authorities immediately contain the outbreak of this, particularly virulent virus.
The Marburg virus
The Marburg virus was first identified in 1967 in Germany and Serbia (the virus is named after the city of Marburg, north of Frankfurt, Germany). Its occurrence has been linked to laboratory work on African monkeys imported from Uganda. Like Ebola, it belongs to the filovirus family and has very similar signs and symptoms: high fever, severe headache, malaise, diarrhea, vomiting, and abdominal cramps.
Many patients develop heavy bleeding between days five and seven, with bleeding from the nose, gums, anus and vagina. Mortality is high (24-88%, depending on the strain) and death occurs 8-9 days after the onset of symptoms, preceded by heavy bleeding.
Marburg in West Africa
Barely two months after Guinea declared an Ebola epidemic that affected 16 people, 11 of whom died earlier this year over, the country is now facing another virus of the same family, the Marburg virus. Samples from patients who have since died tested positive for the virus, the World Health Organisation (WHO) said in a statement. The organization is urging that the epidemic be halted immediately to prevent the rapid spread of the virus. The Marburg virus is indeed highly contagious; like Ebola, it is transmitted by contact with body fluids or contaminated surfaces and materials.
Search for the source of infection
Although the WHO considers the risk to be high at the national and regional level, it is so far low at the international level. The case was discovered in the Guéckédou prefecture in the south of the country, in a village in a forest near the border between Sierra Leone and Liberia. This raises fears that the epidemic could spread across the border.
Three relatives of the deceased patient and one medical worker have been identified as high-risk contacts and their health is being monitored, while investigations are underway to find other possible contacts and trace the source of the infection. The source of infection is thought to be a contact with an infected bat the main vector of the disease.
Marburg virus: 590 cases identified worldwide so far
Sporadic cases of Marburg hemorrhagic fever are regularly recorded in Africa, most recently three in Uganda in 2017. The two most significant outbreaks occurred in the Democratic Republic of Congo between 1998 and 2000 and in Angola in 2005, with 154 and 374 cases respectively.
No treatment for the Marburg virus
Unlike Ebola, there is no approved vaccine or treatment for the Marburg virus, but according to the WHO, several blood-based treatments, immunotherapies, and drugs are under development.
At the beginning of the year, Guinea had managed to effectively contain the Ebola epidemic. In particular, 24,000 doses of vaccine were sent to the country to support the vaccination of 11,000 people at high risk, including more than 2,800 primary workers. However, the efficacy of this vaccine varies greatly depending on the strain and new cases occur regularly. So far, Guinea has remained relatively unaffected by the coronavirus but is now experiencing the third wave of Covid-19, with a dramatic increase in cases.