Deadly Marburg virus identified in Ghana

Bats congregate in a cave in Queen Elizabeth National Park, Uganda, in 2018. Approximately 50,000 bats dwell in the cave. (BONNIE JO MOUNT/THE WASHINGTON POST)

After the coronavirus pandemic and the increase in instances of monkeypox, the word of a new virus can cause global anxiety. According to the World Health Organization, this week, the highly contagious Marburg virus was detected in Ghana, a country in West Africa.

Two unconnected individuals died in the southern Ashanti region of the country after testing positive for Marburg, according to the WHO, which confirmed lab results from Ghana's health department. Similar to Ebola, the highly infectious disease has no vaccination.

The country's health officials report that they are working to isolate close contacts and prevent the spread of the virus, while the WHO is mobilizing resources and deploying specialists to the country.

"The health authorities have reacted fast and initiated preparations for a potential outbreak. Without timely and prompt action, Marburg can quickly spiral out of control "Matshidiso Moti, WHO regional director for Africa, emphasized this.

According to the World Health Organization, illness mortality rates can approach 90 percent.

Which virus is Marburg?

Marburg is a rare but highly contagious viral hemorrhagic fever that belongs to the same family as Ebola, a more well-known virus that has afflicted West Africa for years.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Marburg virus is a "genetically unique zoonotic . . . RNA virus of the filovirus family," The only other known members of the filovirus family are the six species of Ebola virus.

According to the WHO, fatality rates range from 24 to 88 percent, depending on the virus type and quality of case treatment.

Marburg has likely been spread to humans from African fruit bats due to extended exposure to Rousettus bat populations while working in mines and caves. This is not an airborne infection.

Once a person has been infected, the virus can spread quickly through direct contact with bodily fluids such as blood, saliva, or urine, as well as on surfaces and objects. Alongside patients, family members and healthcare professionals remain the most susceptible, and decomposing bodies can remain infectious until they are buried.

In 1967, the first cases of the virus were detected in Europe. Two significant outbreaks in Marburg and Frankfurt, Germany, and Belgrade, Serbia, led to the disease's initial detection. At least seven deaths were attributed to this outbreak. The CDC stated that the first afflicted individuals were exposed to African green monkeys brought from Uganda or their tissue while doing laboratory research.

Where has the Marburg virus been found?

The Ghana cases represent only the second detection of Marburg in West Africa, and Guinea reported the first incidence in the region last year. The infection can quickly spread. In Ghana, more than 90 contacts, including health personnel and community members, are being watched. The WHO stated that it has also reached out to neighboring high-risk nations to warn them.

Cases of Marburg have been documented in other African nations, including Uganda, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Kenya, South Africa, and Zimbabwe. In 2005, the largest outbreak killed over 200 persons in Angola.

There is no evidence that the virus is indigenous to other continents, such as North America, and the CDC describes instances beyond Africa as "infrequent" In 2008, however, a Dutch woman who visited Uganda died of Marburg sickness. In 2008, an American tourist who traveled to Uganda acquired the illness but recovered. Both travelers had seen a well-known cave in a national park inhabited by fruit bats.

What are the signs and symptoms?

According to the WHO, the disease begins "abruptly," with a high fever, severe headache, and malaise. Muscle aches and cramps are also frequent symptoms.

Two unrelated persons who died in Ghana exhibited symptoms including diarrhea, fever, nausea, and vomiting. A 26-year-old guy checked into a hospital on June 26 and died the next day. According to the WHO, the second victim was a 51-year-old guy who went to the hospital on June 28 and died the same day.

In fatal cases, death often occurs eight to nine days following the onset of the disease. It is preceded by substantial blood loss, hemorrhaging, and multi-organ dysfunction.

The CDC has also warned that a non-itchy rash may appear on the chest, back, or stomach around day five. Marburg's symptoms are similar to those of other infectious diseases, such as malaria and typhoid fever, so its clinical diagnosis "can be difficult," according to the article.

Can the Marburg virus be cured?

There are no licensed vaccinations or antiviral therapies for the Marburg virus.

However, supportive treatment can increase survival rates, such as rehydration with oral or intravenous fluids, maintaining oxygen levels, utilizing pharmacological therapy, and addressing specific symptoms as they develop. According to some health professionals, medications comparable to those used to treat Ebola may be helpful.

According to the CDC, some "experimental treatments" for Marburg have been evaluated on animals but never on people.

According to the World Health Organization, virus samples acquired from patients for research pose an "extreme biohazard risk," Laboratory testing should be conducted under "maximum biological containment conditions."

What else should we know?

This Monday, the WHO said it would support a "joint national investigative team" in Ghana and send its specialists to the country. In response to the small number of cases, it also distributes personal protective equipment, enhances disease surveillance, and tracks contacts.

Thursday's WHO Africa online briefing is anticipated to provide additional information.

"The apparent geographical expansion of this viral virus is cause for concern. This infection is quite dangerous and has a high fatality rate "Professor Jimmy Whitworth of the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, an expert in international public health, told The Washington Post on Monday.

"It is essential to determine how the virus entered the human population to trigger this outbreak and to prevent further occurrences. Currently, the likelihood of the outbreak spreading outside of Ghana's Ashanti region is quite low "he noted.

Publish : 2022-07-19 09:36:00

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