Marburg Virus

New Outbreak Of The Marburg Virus Confirmed

An outbreak of the Marburg Virus occurred on 17th October 2017 and it was officially declared by Uganda’s ministry for health on 19th October 2017. The outbreak of the disease was found in the Kween district of Eastern Uganda.

The outbreak affected three people who were all members of the same family. Sadly all three people infected later died as a result of contracting the Marburg virus.


Now if I’m being honest even though I have researched both the Ebola virus and the bubonic/pneumonic plague (Black death) that has recently reared its ugly head again in Madagascar. Up until a few days ago, I had not heard of the Marburg Virus. So I decided to carry out some research to find out some answers to the following.

  • What is it?
  • Where does it come from?
  • How is it transmitted?
  • What are the symptoms?
  • What treatment is available?

After completing the research I thought it would be helpful to share my findings with others who may not have previously heard of the Marburg Virus. The remainder of this article will give the answers to these questions.

What Is Marburg Virus?

The Marburg virus (MARV) formerly known as Marburg hemorrhagic fever is a severe illness which is often fatal to humans. The virus causes severe viral hemorrhagic (bleeding) and fever in humans and non-human primates. The World Health Organization (WHO) considers the virus to be extremely dangerous and have categorized it as a Risk Group (4) Pathogen (requiring bio-safety level 4-equivalent containment). The National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases has classed the virus as a category (A) priority pathogen. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention lists the virus as a Category (A) Bioterrorism Agent.

Origins

The Marburg virus is named after the German town of Marburg where it was first discovered. In 1967 simultaneous outbreaks of the virus happened in both Germany and Yugoslavia (Serbia). These outbreaks infected laboratory workers after they were exposed to imported African green monkeys while conducting research on Poliovirus vaccines. A number of medical staff who had treated them and some family members also became infected. Resulting in a total of seven deaths.

African Fruit Bats, sometimes called megabats are considered long-term natural hosts of the Marburg virus. However infected fruit bats do not show obvious signs of illness. More research is needed to find out if other species may also host the Marburg virus.

Transmission

As mentioned above the Marburg virus can be transmitted to humans from Fruit Bats. Once a person becomes infected it can spread further among humans through human-to-human transmission. The spread occurs via exposure to bodily fluids through unprotected copulation and broken skin.

Symptoms

Marburg virus symptoms usually occur suddenly after an incubation period of about five to ten days. They include:

  • Fever
  • Muscle aches
  • Chills
  • Headache

Five days after the first symptoms appear, further symptoms can occur which include:

  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Sore throat
  • Chest pain
  • Abdominal pain
  • Diarrhea

As symptoms continue they become more severe and may also include the following:

  • Delirium
  • Liver failure
  • Jaundice
  • Pancreatic inflammation
  • Severe weight loss
  • Massive hemorrhaging with organ dysfunction

Treatment

To date, no drug has been approved or licensed to treat the Marburg virus. Currently, a number of potential treatments are being tested which include blood products, immune therapies, and drug therapies. But for now, anyone who becomes infected with the Marburg virus receives supportive care and treatment for complications.

Early supportive care which includes rehydration with oral or intravenous fluids and the treatment of specific symptoms, can help improve chances of survival.

Marburg Virus & Ebola

Although caused by different viruses Marburg and Ebola are similar diseases. Both viruses are native to Africa, where sporadic outbreaks have occurred for decades. Both of these viruses have the ability to cause significant outbreaks resulting in high fatality rates.

Ebola and Marburg viruses both live in animal hosts from which humans can contract them. Both viruses cause hemorrhagic fevers that feature severe bleeding (hemorrhage), organ failure and, often, death. After the first transmission, these viruses can spread from person to person through contact with body fluids or contaminated needles.

Summary

Whilst the thought of a pandemic resulting from any disease is a scary one, these viruses are rare. The people who are most at risk are those that travel to locations near the source of the virus and medical workers who give supportive care to the infected. Be mindful that modern transportation systems could allow the virus to spread to other continents. However, there has been no recommendation to seal borders and prevent such transport from leaving the infected areas. The best way forward is to keep informed of the situation through news reports, social media and government websites.

Research Credits

Marburg Virus Disease

WHO – Marburg virus disease

Marburg virus disease – Uganda and Kenya Disease outbreak news 7 November 2017

Wikipedia.org – Marburg Virus

Marburg virus disease – Factsheet

Marburg hemorrhagic fever

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