The Fatal Nature Of The Marburg Virus

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The Marburg Virus

With a high mortality rate, health experts have largely expressed concerns about Marburg; the viral infection which appears to have shown up in some countries.

Health experts in Ghana became alert after two cases were recorded in the Ashanti Region. The detection of the virus in the region came after preliminary tests which were done on two affected patients came back positive.

The Marburg Virus is transmitted by fruit bats - Photo: Freepik
The Marburg Virus is transmitted by fruit bats – Photo: Freepik

The two unrelated patients who died experienced symptoms such as diarrhoea, fever, nausea and vomiting. One case involved a 26-year-old man who checked into a hospital on June 26 and died a day after. The second was a 51-year-old man who went to a hospital on June 28 and died the same day, the World Health Organisation representative in Ghana confirmed.

Meanwhile, more than 90 contacts, including health workers and community members, have been traced and are being monitored.

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The World Health Organisation (WHO) has since announced its support in dealing with the outbreak through a ‘joint national investigative team’ in Ghana. WHO is also deploying experts to the country to help with personal protective equipment, bolstering disease surveillance and contact tracing.

How deadly is Marburg:

According to the World Health Organisation, fatality rates range from 24 percent to 88 percent, depending on the virus strain and quality of case management.

Whilst it is not an airborne disease, Marburg is said to spread from African fruit bats to humans and other animals and can further be spread between humans through body contact and bodily fluids.

First detected in Europe in 1967, the two large outbreaks in Marburg and Frankfurt in Germany, and in Belgrade, Serbia created awareness of the disease.

The viral hemorrhagic disease is in the same family as Ebola and is a member of the filovirus family.

Although it has previously been recorded in some African countries including Congo, Kenya, and South Africa among others in previous times, this is the second time Marburg has been detected in West Africa with the first being recorded in Guinea in 2021.

People remain infectious as long as their blood contains the virus.

Symptoms:

According to the World Health Organisation, the disease is accompanied by the following deadly and almost fatal symptoms.

1. It begins ‘abruptly’, with a high fever, severe headache.

2. The interval from infection to onset of symptoms varies from 2 to 21 days.

3. Severe watery diarrhoea, abdominal pain and cramping, nausea and vomiting can begin on the third day.

4. Diarrhoea can persist for a week.

5. The appearance of patients at this phase has been described as showing “ghost-like” drawn features, deep-set eyes, expressionless faces, and extreme lethargy (deep unresponsiveness and inactivity).

6. Non-itchy rash is also a common feature of the illness.

7. Many patients develop severe haemorrhagic manifestations between 5 and 7 days.

8. Fresh blood in vomitus and faeces is often accompanied by bleeding from the nose, gums, and vagina.

9. Fatal cases usually have some form of bleeding, often from multiple areas.

10. During the severe phase of illness, patients have sustained high fevers. Involvement of the central nervous system can result in confusion, irritability, and aggression.

11. Orchitis (inflammation of one or both testicles) has been reported occasionally in the late phase of disease (15 days).

NB: In fatal cases, death occurs most often between 8 and 9 days after symptom onset, usually preceded by severe blood loss and shock.

Treatment, cure and vaccines:

The World Health Organisation indicates that there are currently no vaccines or antiviral treatments approved for the treatment of Marburg Virus (MVD).

However, supportive care – rehydration with oral or intravenous fluids – and treatment of specific symptoms, improve survival.

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