What is Marburg Virus – Causes, Symptoms and Treatment: The Covid-19 pandemic isn’t over yet and the world is still in the process of coming to terms with the Monkeypox virus. And as if these viruses weren’t enough to put you on edge, a new disease, known as the Marburg virus disease (MVD), has now caught the attention of researchers and health experts worldwide.
The health authorities of the West African nation Ghana have reported the first two cases of the deadly Marburg virus. According to media reports, two unrelated people from Ghana’s Ashanti region were showing symptoms of the disease. The two were shifted to a hospital, where they succumbed to the illness.
Ghana authorities have already deployed their best to test and trace the disease in the region. WHO has also sent a team of experts who will help with the coordination, risk assessment, and infection prevention measures. Meanwhile, let’s dive into the origin, spread, and symptoms of MVD.
What is Marburg Virus Disease?
According to the World Health Organisation, Marburg is a highly infectious viral disease that leads to haemorrhagic fever, with a fatality ratio of up to 88%. Marburg is in the same family as the Ebola virus disease. In other words, Marburg is as deadly as Ebola and so far, no treatment or vaccine has been found to treat/cure/prevent from the disease. MVD outbreaks have been reported in many African countries in the past, including Kenya, Congo, Angola, South Africa, and Uganda. These outbreaks have also led to a large number of deaths with most of them taking place in southern and eastern Africa.
How is MVD transmitted?
Human infection with Marburg virus disease initially results from prolonged exposure to mines or caves inhabited by Rousettus bat colonies, as per WHO. Once a human is infected with the Marburg virus, it can spread through direct contact with the blood, secretions, or other bodily fluids of infected people, and with surfaces and materials (e.g. bedding, clothing) contaminated with these fluids.
Dr Sabnis informs that currently, the infection is only limited to a few areas in Africa. For the prevention and control of the disease, it’s significant that people with any symptoms related to the virus and with significant travel history to those specific African areas should seek expert medical care and avoid any human contact until the symptoms are gone completely. She says the maximum time for this will be 5-7 days; if we all follow this strictly, we can control the spread of infection. Secondly, the other route of transmission can be through sexual contact. This virus gets secreted in our body fluids like saliva, sweat, nose secretion, and semen. So there is a high chance of transmission even after the patient’s symptoms are gone through any sexual contact, Dr. Sabnis added.
What are the symptoms of MVD?
A person infected with Marburg virus suffers from high fever, severe headache, muscle pain, abdominal pain, and cramping. Nausea and vomiting can also begin on the third day of infection. Diarrhoea can persist for a week. According to the WHO, the appearance of patients at this phase has been described as showing “ghost-like” drawn features, deep-set eyes, expressionless faces, and extreme lethargy. A non-itchy rash has also been taken note of between the second and seventh day after the onset of symptoms. In fatal cases, death usually occurs between 8 and 9 days after onset, usually preceded by severe blood loss and shock.
Diagnosis and Treatment
There are various methods to confirm the presence of Marburg virus in an individual and these diagnostic methods include antibody enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA), antigen detection tests, serum neutralization tests, reverse-transcriptase polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) assay, and virus isolation by cell culture. There is no specific treatment for Marburg Virus Disease yet. However, a range of potential treatments including immune and drug therapies, blood products are currently being evaluated, says WHO.
Dr Sabnis says, “If a confirmed diagnosis of the Marburg virus has been made on any person, they need to be more cautious and follow all the precautionary measures to control the further spread of the virus via sexual contact. People with a travel history from Africa and have symptoms like high-grade fever, red eyes, and severe joint pain should immediately consult the doctor or infectious disease specialist to get the diagnosis done correctly. Currently, we don’t have any case suspected or confirmed from India.”