West Africa detects deadly Marburg virus, WHO warns

The World Health Organization (WHO) has warned that West Africa has detected a patient infected with the dangerous Marburg virus, which is related to the Ebola virus.

The World Health Organization (WHO) said on August 9 that Guinea had detected a case of Marburg virus infection, marking the first time the pathogen appeared in West Africa. Marburg is a deadly virus related to the Ebola virus, and it is also capable of spreading from an animal host to humans like SARS-CoV-2.

According to WHO, the Marburg virus appeared in a patient who di‌ed on August 2 in Gueckedou province.

“The risk of Marburg spreading widely means that we need to stop it in the right direction,” warned WHO Africa regional director Matshidiso Moeti.

Marburg’s arrival comes just two months after the WHO declared Guinea’s second Ebola outbreak over.

“We are working with the health authorities for a rapid response (with Marburg) building on Guinea’s past experience and expertise in controlling Ebola, a similarly transmitted disease (Marburg),” Mr. Moeti said.

Marburg virus usually occurs in Rousettus bats. According to the WHO, once a person is infected with the virus, the pathogen is spread through the bodily fluids of an infected person, or with surfaces and materials contaminated with the virus.

“We welcome the vigilance and prompt investigation by Guinean health authorities,” Moeti said.

After detecting the Marburg virus, WHO sent 10 experts to as‌sist the Guinea side in carrying out risk as‌sessment and pathogen surveillance.

Previous Marburg outbreaks and sporadic cases have been reported in South Africa, Angola, Kenya, Uganda and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. However, this is the first time the pathogen has appeared in West Africa.

Symptoms of Marburg virus infection are high fever, severe headache and malaise. According to WHO, the mortality rate from infection with pathogens ranges from 24% to a maximum of 88% in previous outbreaks, depending on the strain of the virus and the method of disease control in each region.

Marburg currently has no approved vaccine and antiviral drug, but treatment through oral rehydration and intravenous infusion combined with treatment of symptoms will likely improve survival rates.

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