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What Is Marburg Virus Disease? Everything You Need To Know

The Ghanaian health service confirmed two cases of the Marburg virus, a highly infectious disease similar to Ebola, after two people died from the disease earlier this month.

The World Health Organization (WHO) has confirmed the first case of another viral infection in West Africa. Termed as the Marburg disease, it is caused by the Filoviridae virus. Marburg virus was first recognized in 1967 simultaneously in laboratories in Marburg and Frankfurt, Germany, and Belgrade, Yugoslavia.

What Is Marburg Virus Disease?

Marburg virus disease (MVD), formerly known as Marburg haemorrhagic fever is a rare and severe disease that is often fatal [1]. The fatality ratio of the disease is shown to be 88 per cent and belongs to the same family as the virus that causes Ebola virus disease.

What Causes Marburg Virus Disease?

Marburg virus disease is caused by the Marburg virus, a genetically unique zoonotic RNA virus of the filovirus family. The African fruit bat, Rousettus aegyptiacus, acts as the host for the Marburg virus and does not show signs of illness. However, it can spread the disease to primates and humans [2].

Once the virus affects an individual, it 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 such as beddings and sheets contaminated with these fluids [3]. Studies show that the incubation period of the virus is two to 21 days.

How Is Marburg Virus Disease Contracted?

It is unknown how the Marburg virus first transmits from its animal host to humans. However, the most common cause has been pointed out as prolonged exposure to mines or caves inhabited by Rousettus bat colonies.

What Are The Symptoms Of Marburg Virus Disease?

Commonly observed signs of Marburg virus disease are as follows [4]:

  • High fever
  • Severe headache
  • Severe malaise
  • Muscle ache and pain

On the third day of the disease, the following symptoms are observed, which can continue for a week [5]:

  • Severe diarrhoea
  • Abdominal pain and cramping
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting

By the third day, the appearance of an affected individual has been described as having deep-set eyes, lethargy and an expressionless face (ghost-like). In severe cases of Marburg virus disease, the following symptoms have been reported [6]:

  • Bleeding from multiple body parts (nose, gums and vagina)
  • Constant vomiting
  • Faecal discharge
  • Confusion
  • Irritability
  • Aggression

An individual in severe condition can die between 8 and 9 days after onset, usually preceded by severe blood loss and shock.

How Is Marburg Virus Disease Treated?

According to WHO, distinguishing the Marburg virus disease from other infectious diseases such as malaria, shigellosis, typhoid and meningitis. The disease is diagnosed using antigen detection tests, serum neutralization tests, virus isolation by cell culture or through RT-PCR [7].

Currently, there is no specific treatment for Marburg virus disease. Treatments such as the use of blood products, immune therapies and drug therapies are being researched to study their effectiveness in managing the symptoms associated with the disease. Oral or intravenous fluids are often used to treat the associated symptoms.

How To Prevent Marburg Virus Disease?

According to the CDC, preventive measures against Marburg virus infection are not clearly established; however, avoiding fruit bats and sick non-human primates in central Africa is one way to protect against infection [8].

On A Final Note...

Although a rare disease, the Marburg virus can easily spread to other people, especially health care staff and family members who care for the infected patient. Global health bodies advise that there is a need to raise awareness in communities and among healthcare providers of the clinical symptoms of patients with Marburg haemorrhagic fever.

Is Ebola or Marburg worse?

Marburg and Ebola viruses cause clinically similar diseases characterized by haemorrhagic fevers and capillary leakage. Ebola virus infection is slightly more severe than Marburg virus infection.

What kills the Marburg virus?

There is no specific treatment for Marburg virus disease.

Who is most affected by the Marburg virus?

During outbreaks of Marburg, those at the highest risk include healthcare workers and family, are the most affected due to their close contact with an affected individual (patient).

What does the Marburg virus look like?

The Marburg virus, under the microscope, has an unusual shape. Researchers say that it is pleomorphic in shape; it can be in different shapes - rod-like or ring-like, crook- or six-shaped, or with branched structures.

Is there a cure for the Marburg virus?

No. There is no specific treatment for Marburg haemorrhagic fever.

How many people killed Marburg virus?

From 1967-2012, 571 cases of Marburg virus disease, including 470 deaths, were reported globally.

What does the Marburg virus do?

The Marburg virus affects the human body and causes severe symptoms, often resulting in death. The same virus also causes Ebola fever. There is currently no specific treatment or vaccine.

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