Marburg virus disease, previously known as Marburg hemorrhagic fever, is a severe and often fatal illness in humans. It is a genetically unique zoonotic disease, meaning that it is transmitted to humans from animals.
Marburg virus is classified as a category-A bio-warfare agent by The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
In light of the recent outbreak in Tanzania, here are seven things you should know about the virus:
The virus was first detected in 1967 in Marburg, Germany, where two outbreaks occurred simultaneously, hence the name Marburg. Marburg and Ebola are both members of the Filoviridae family and have similar clinical features, rare occurrence, and high fatality rates.
The virus spreads through human-to-human transmission, mostly through direct contact with the blood, secretions, organs, and other bodily fluids of infected persons. Infected individuals remain contagious as long as their blood contains the virus.
The incubation period varies from two to 21 days. The illness starts suddenly, with high fever, severe headache, and muscle aches. Patients develop a ghost-like appearance characterized by deep-set eyes, expressionless faces, and extreme lethargy.
During the severe phase of illness, patients sustain high fever, confusion, irritability, and aggression. Fatal cases often result in severe blood loss and shock, leading to death between eight and nine days after symptom onset.
It is challenging to clinically distinguish MVD from other infectious diseases like malaria, typhoid fever, shigellosis, meningitis, and other viral hemorrhagic fevers since many signs and symptoms are similar. However, electron microscopy, virus isolation by cell culture, and serum neutralization test among others, can help detect the virus.
Treatment and Vaccines
Currently, there are no approved vaccines or antiviral treatments for the virus. However, supportive care such as rehydration with oral or intravenous fluids and treatment of specific symptoms can improve survival rates.
Prevention and Control
Community engagement is crucial in successfully controlling outbreaks. Raising awareness of Marburg risk factors and protective measures that individuals can take is an effective way to reduce human transmission.
This includes reducing bat-to-human and human-to-human transmissions, and keeping communities affected well informed about the nature of the disease and outbreak containment measures.
In Tanzania, four people and one healthcare worker reportedly died out of the eight cases reported. In Equatorial Guinea, a similar outbreak occurred earlier this year on February 7, where nine deaths were reported.
Officials from the Ministry of Health told The journals that there are measures in place to prevent the disease from spreading to Rwanda.