The World Health Organisation said that Guinea in West Africa has confirmed a case of Marburg disease, a lethal virus related to Ebola. This is the first case to be confirmed in West Africa. The victim died on August 2 in southern Gueckedou prefecture.
The victim was from a village in a forested region close to the borders of Sierra Leone and Liberia. His symptoms were traced back to July 25. He was initially treated for malaria in a local clinic. The infection causes symptoms like high fever, severe headache, and discomfort.
The patient died in the community. Tests for Ebola and Marburg were conducted during the post-mortem. His three family members are being monitored. Investigators are trying to identify the source of infection as well as other possible close contacts.
WHO Regional Director for Africa, Dr MatshidisoMoeti said that the Marburg virus has the potential to spread far and wide, and we need to stop it in its tracks. The virus is transmissible from animals to humans, similar to coronavirus. It is carried by bats and has shown a fatality rate of up to 88% in the past, reported AFP.
Marburg virus has been reported in South Africa, Angola, Kenya, Uganda, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. But this is the first report in West Africa.
The WHO said that the Marburg virus is associated with exposure to caves or mines housing colonies of Rousettus bats. Once a human is infected, it will spread through bodily fluids and contaminated surfaces or materials. Moeti applauded the alertness and quick investigative action taken by the Guinea health workers.
Moeti told AFP that the threat of the Marburg virus is high at the national and regional level, but low globally. The WHO is working with the health authorities to implement a swift response that builds on Guinea's past experience and expertise in managing Ebola.
The Ebola virus is transmitted in a similar way. The World Health Organisation had declared an end to Guinea's second outbreak of Ebola two months ago. 12 people died within a year during the outbreak.
The WHO has deployed a team of ten experts - epidemiologists and socio-anthropologists - to support the local authorities. The team will tackle risk assessment, disease surveillance, community mobilisation and screening, clinical care, infection control, and logistical support.
There are no known approved vaccines or antiviral treatments for the disease. But oral or intravenous rehydration and treatment of specific symptoms improve survival rates, said WHO.