Marburg virus factsheet| Highly infectious, fatality rate can go up to 88%

Published on Jul 19, 2022 01:19 PM IST

Marburg virus was first detected in 1967 in a German town that has the same name.  The laboratory work was reported to be associated with African green monkeys.

In humans, the Marburg virus causes severe viral hemorrhagic fever.(WHO)
In humans, the Marburg virus causes severe viral hemorrhagic fever.(WHO)
By, New Delhi

Another virus has sparked fresh concerns in many parts of the world after Ghana in West Africa reported its first Marburg outbreak. Two unrelated deaths were reported in the county - due to the virus, which is said to be highly infectious - after patients showed symptoms such as diarrhoea, fever, nausea and vomiting.

“Health authorities have responded swiftly, getting a head start preparing for a possible outbreak. This is good because without immediate and decisive action, Marburg can easily get out of hand. WHO is on the ground supporting health authorities and now that the outbreak is declared, we are marshaling more resources for the response,” said Dr Matshidiso Moeti, WHO Regional Director for Africa, sounding a note of caution.

Marburg virus, which causes the rare disease, is a genetically unique zoonotic (or animal-borne) virus. It can cause a severe hemorrhagic fever that affects both people and non-human primates, according to top US medical body CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention).

The illness is often fatal in humans, according to the WHO, and the fatality rate can go up to 88 percent “The average MVD case fatality rate is around 50%. Case fatality rates have varied from 24% to 88% in past outbreaks depending on virus strain and case management,” says the world health body in a factsheet.

The disease was first detected in 1967 after simultaneous outbreaks in laboratories in Germany’s Marburg town and Frankfurt, one of the most densely populated cities of the country, and and in Belgrade, Yugoslavia (now Serbia), as per the CDC.

The laboratory work was said to be associated with African green monkeys.

“Thirty-one people became ill, initially laboratory workers followed by several medical personnel and family members who had cared for them. Seven deaths were reported. The first people infected had been exposed to Ugandan imported African green monkeys or their tissues while conducting research,” says the US health body.

African fruit bats are said to be the reservoir hosts. “Fruit bats infected with Marburg virus do not show obvious signs of illness. Primates (including people) can become infected with Marburg virus, and may develop serious disease with high mortality,” the CDC underlines.

It can spread through direct contact (through broken skin or mucous membranes) with the blood, secretions, organs or other bodily fluids of infected people, and with surfaces and materials (e.g. bedding, clothing) contaminated with these fluids, the WHO says.

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