Marburg Virus in Africa

Marburg virus is believed to have originated from Africa.  The virus has claimed over 100 lives in central Africa. The most recent recorded outbreak was in Uganda in 2017. Other’s sporadic cases and outbreaks have been reported in Kenya, South Africa, Angola, Democratic Republic of Congo, and Zimbabwe. 

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Recently, researchers discovered an Angola-like strain in Fruit bats in Sierra Leone. This marks the first appearance of the deadly Ebola-like virus in West Africa.

What is the Marburg Virus?

Marburg Virus is a rare but deadly virus that causes hemorrhagic fever.  The virus infects the cell lining of the blood vessels and a subsection of the body’s immune cells, resulting in capillaries leaking blood. 

The virus falls in the same Family as Ebola and is the causative agent of Marburg Hemorrhagic Fever (MHF).  MHF is a disease with a fatality rate of about 80% and was first discovered in 1967, after a simultaneous outbreak in Marburg and Frankfurt in Germany, and Belgrade in Serbia.

Transmission

Marburg is a zoonotic disease, meaning it can be transmitted between animals and humans. The Egyptian Rosette fruit bats (Rousettus aesgyptiacus) have been identified as a reservoir host of the virus.  

Once a bat is affected by the virus, it enters its saliva, urine, and feces-  which may be deposited on the surfaces of the fruit when the bat takes tiny bites. The virus is then transmitted to animals and humans who eat these fruits.  

The virus also spreads via close contact with infected persons, their blood, or other body fluid like saliva and semen. 

Sign and Symptoms 

The initial signs of the infection are the onset of sudden fever, aches, myalgia, and chills. As the infection spreads throughout the body, the patient will start experiencing nausea, sore throat, abdominal pains, vomiting, and acute diarrhea. 

The signs and symptoms of the Marburg hemorrhagic fever make it difficult to distinguish it from other infectious diseases such as Malaria, typhoid fever, and other viral diseases. 

Even though it causes severe bleeding, most patients die from circulatory system failure, which triggers shock and multiple organ failure.

Treatment

There are no drugs or vaccines that can fight off Marburg Virus. Usually, treatment is limited to supportive hospital therapy like balancing electrolytes, replacing lost blood, treatment of infections, and maintaining blood pressure and oxygen status. However, there are experimental treatments that are validated primates but are yet to be tried in humans. 

Prevention

Prevention measures against Marburg are not yet well defined, because transmission between wildlife and humans is still an area of ongoing research. Nevertheless, people should avoid contact with fruit bats and primates in West and Central Africa.  In the case of an outbreak, presentation measures of human-to-human and secondary transmission are the same as those used for Ebola and other hemorrhagic diseases.

Why is the Marburg Virus more prevalent in Africa?

Encroachment of humans into the habitats dominated by bats and monkey exposes them to a new set of viral disease these animals harbor that. 

Furthermore, the poor economies of African countries have left many people improvised, and the only way they fend for themselves and makes some little income is by hunting and bushmeat (killing monkey and fruit bats). 

References

https://www.cdc.gov/vhf/marburg/symptoms/index.html

https://www.cdc.gov/media/releases/2018/p1220-marburg-found-in-bats.html

https://www.afro.who.int/health-topics/marburg-haemorrhagic-fever

https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/30883555/

https://www.who.int/csr/don/25-october-2017-marburg-uganda/en/

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4447827/

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3321919/

https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0264410X04001604

https://www.iamat.org/risks/marburg-hemorrhagic-fever

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