2022-07-28| Trending

The Marburg Virus Strikes Again in Africa, Prompting the World to Stay Alert

by Reed Slater
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Two Ghanaian men passed away recently after contracting Marburg virus disease (MVD), a tropical febrile disease in the same family as the Ebola virus. Based on past outbreaks, MVD demonstrates a fatality rate between 20% and 88%, but experts say it is unlikely that the virus poses a risk to global populations at this time. 

What We Know About MVD Right Now

Like Ebola, MVD spreads through direct contact through broken skin or mucous membranes with bodily fluids of infected individuals and contaminated surfaces with these fluids. Healthcare workers have been known to contract MVD while treating patients with the disease, so the World Health Organization (WHO) recommends an increased awareness of proper protective equipment and sanitation practices. 

MVD symptoms can begin anywhere from two to 21 days after contracting the virus, and early symptoms include high fever, severe headache, and lethargy. The symptoms following typically include diarrhea, vomiting, severe abdominal pain, and cramping. Later stages of the illness often have some sort of bleeding in several places, including in vomit and feces and through the nose and mouth. In most fatal cases, patients experience severe blood loss and shock within eight or nine days of the onset of symptoms before passing. 

Diagnosing MVD can be difficult because early symptoms are so similar to other infectious diseases common to Africa, like malaria, typhoid, and meningitis. Effective diagnostic methods for MVD include virus isolation by cell culture and reverse transcriptase polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) assay. There is currently no treatment or vaccine for MVD, but early rehydration and symptomatic treatment can improve survival rates. 

The WHO announced that the two deaths are the only detected cases of MVD in the area, but the organization will continue to monitor the situation. Ghanaian authorities corresponded with 108 individuals considered to be contacts of the two men who died, none of whom showed symptoms of MVD. 

Related Article: First Polio Case in the US Since 2013 Has Been Detected in New York

Comparing the Current Outbreak to Previous Ones

MVD first appeared in a German town called Marburg and in Belgrade, Yugoslavia (now Serbia) in 1967 after monkeys from Uganda were imported for laboratory research purposes. Thirty-one individuals contracted MVD, and seven died.

While humans initially contracted the virus through contact with infected monkeys, researchers suggest the original source of the virus comes from fruit bats. However, there is not enough conclusive evidence to support the theory. In 2008, two travelers contracted MVD after visiting caves inhabited by Rousettus bats in Uganda.

Since the 1967 outbreak, the CDC lists 14 other outbreaks, most of which occurred in West Africa or were traced back to West African origins. The deadliest occurred in Angola between 2004 and 2005, when 90% of 252 individuals who contracted MDV died. 

Though the virus outbreak is concerning for areas in and around West Africa, the WHO announced that global threat levels remain low while it continues to monitor the situation. The recent MVD outbreak in Ghana serves as a stark reminder for the global community to remain vigilant for the spread of infectious diseases in our globalized world. 

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