What is the Marburg virus?

Source: By The Indian Express

The first two cases of the Marburg virus, a highly infectious Ebola-like disease, have been confirmed officially by Ghana after test results were verified by a Senegal laboratory.

According to the World Health Organisation, the first case was a 26-year-old male who checked into a hospital on 26 June 2022 and died a day later. The second case was a 51-year-old male who went to the hospital on 28 June 2022 and died the same day.

This outbreak is only the second time that the disease has been detected in West Africa.

What is the Marburg virus disease?

Marburg virus disease (MVD), earlier known as Marburg haemorrhagic fever, is a severe, often fatal hemorrhagic fever, according to the WHO. Marburg, like Ebola, is a filovirus; and both diseases are clinically similar.

Rousettus fruit-bats are considered the natural hosts for Marburg virus. However, African green monkeys imported from Uganda were the source of the first human infection, the WHO points out.

It was first detected in 1967 after simultaneous outbreaks in Marburg and Frankfurt in Germany; and in Belgrade, Serbia.

The disease has an average fatality rate of around 50%. However, it can be as low as 24% or as high as 88% depending on virus strain and case management, says the WHO.

What are the symptoms?

After the onset of symptoms, which can begin anytime between 2 to 21 days, MVD can manifest itself in the form of high fever, muscle aches and severe headache. Around the third day, patients report abdominal pain, vomiting, severe watery diarrhoea and cramping.

In this phase, the WHO says, the appearance of patients has been often described as “ghost-like” with deep-set eyes, expressionless faces, and extreme lethargy.

Between days 5 and 7, patients report bleeding from nose, gums and blood appearing in vomits and faeces. Severe blood loss leads to death, often between 8 to 9 days after symptoms begin.

How can it be diagnosed and treated?

It is difficult to clinically distinguish MVD from diseases such as malaria, typhoid fever and other viral haemorrhagic fevers. However, it is confirmed by lab testing of samples, which like Coronavirus and Ebola are extreme biohazard risk.

There is no approved antiviral treatment or vaccine for MVD as of now. It can be managed with supportive care. According to the WHO, rehydration with oral or intravenous fluids, and treatment of specific symptoms can help prevent death.