Today's Editorial

Today's Editorial - 13 April 2023

Marburg virus disease outbreak

Source: By The Indian Express

Five people have died and three others are infected with the Marburg virus – a highly infectious, Ebola-like disease – in Tanzania’s north-west Kagera region, authorities said earlier this week.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), around 161 people have been identified as at risk of infection through contact tracing and are currently being monitored. An emergency response team has been deployed in the area and no other cases of the virus have been reported in the country outside Kagera, The Guardian said.

“The efforts by Tanzania’s health authorities to establish the cause of the disease are a clear indication of the determination to effectively respond to the outbreak. We are working with the government to rapidly scale up control measures to halt the spread of the virus and end the outbreak as soon as possible,” said Dr Matshidiso Moeti, WHO Regional Director for Africa, in a statement.

The cases in Tanzania have come just over a month after another African country, Equatorial Guinea, reported its first case of the Marburg virus disease. Local authorities have confirmed seven deaths out of nine cases since 13 February, The Washington Post reported.

“These emerging and re-emerging infectious diseases are a sign that the health security of the continent needs to be strengthened to cope with the disease threats,” said Ahmed Ogwell Ouma, the director of Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (Africa CDC). “We urge members of the public to continue sharing information in a timely manner with the authorities to enable a most effective response.”

What is the Marburg virus disease?

Marburg virus disease (MVD), earlier known as Marburg hemorrhagic 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 the 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 of Marburg virus disease?

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

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

Between days five and seven, patients report bleeding from the nose, and gums and blood appearing in vomit and faeces. Severe blood loss leads to death, often between eight to nine days after symptoms begin.

How can Marburg virus disease 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 risks.

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.

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