Wednesday, August 10, 2022

What is the Marburg virus and how does it spread?

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Ghana has confirmed two cases of the Marburg virus, a highly contagious disease similar to Ebola.

The two people tested positive for the virus before they later died, but the results have now been verified by a laboratory in Senegal, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).

A total of 98 people are now under quarantine as suspected cases, Ghanaian health officials said.

It is only the second Marburg outbreak in West Africa. The first case of the virus in the region was detected in Guinea last year, but no other cases have been identified.

It is a hemorrhagic fever virus from the same family as the virus that causes Ebola.

The virus can be transmitted through contact with mines or burrows inhabited by Rousettus bat colonies that carry the pathogen.

Once a person is infected, Marburg can spread through person-to-person transmission through direct contact with that person’s blood, secretions, organs, or other bodily fluids, and with surfaces and materials contaminated with those fluids. It’s not an airborne disease.

On average, the virus kills half of those infected, the World Health Organization says, but the most harmful strains have killed up to 88 percent, making it one of the deadliest pathogens on the planet.

Marburg virus was first described in 1967 after being detected during a series of outbreaks in the German cities of Marburg and Frankfurt and the Yugoslav capital of Belgrade that year.

Since then, outbreaks have been reported in Kenya, South Africa, Uganda and Zimbabwe. An outbreak in Angola in 2005 killed more than 300 people. Only one person has died from the disease in Europe in the last 40 years.

The incubation period of Marburg virus disease — how long it takes for symptoms to appear — varies from 2 to 21 days.

However, according to the WHO, the disease begins “suddenly” with high fever, severe headaches and malaise. Muscle aches and cramping pains are also common features.

In Ghana, the two unrelated people who died suffered from symptoms including diarrhea, fever, nausea and vomiting. One case involved a 26-year-old man who was taken to hospital on June 26 and died a day later. The second was a 51-year-old man who was taken to hospital on June 28 and died the same day, the WHO said.

In fatal cases, death usually occurs between eight and nine days after the onset of the disease.

There are no antiviral treatments or vaccines for the infection. However, a number of drugs and immunotherapies are being developed.

A patient’s chances of survival can also be improved by hydrating and maintaining oxygen levels with oral or intravenous fluids.

Gavi, an international organization that promotes access to vaccines, says people in Africa should avoid eating or handling bushmeat. Doctors and families should also be careful when handling an infected person’s body, as they can remain contagious after death.

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