What is the Marburg virus? What you need to know Ghana outbreak, symptoms and prevention.

Ghana has confirmed the first two fatal cases of Marburg virus disease, a deadly infliction in the same family as the Ebola virus. The two patients died in the same hospital in late June and their tests, which came up positive on July 1, were confirmed later by a lab in Senegal. 

The life-threatening virus is highly contagious, and has no known cure or approved vaccine. Here’s what you need to know about the symptoms, spread and treatment for the Marburg virus disease. 

What is Marburg virus?

Marburg virus disease, or MVD is a serious, often fatal disease. The virus causes a severe viral hemorrhagic fever, according to the World Health Organization.

It was first detected in 1967 during twin outbreaks in Marburg and Frankfurt, Germany, and Belgrade, Serbia.

Where is the Marburg virus?

The outbreak has been identified in the African nation of Ghana. T So far, two men there have died, a 26-year-old and a 51-year-old. 

Is there a vaccine for Marburg virus?

No. The WHO reports there is not yet a Marburg vaccine or approved treatment. Monoclonal antibodies under development, however, and a vaccine for Ebola could potentially protect against Marburg Virus.

Discover America’s disease laboratories:Inside America’s secretive biolabs

How does the Marburg virus spread?

The Marburg virus is transmitted to humans through fruit bats, and then spread from person-to-person through direct contact. Humans can contract the virus through exposure to caves where the fruit bats live or from infected people through contact with their bodily fluids.

How deadly in the Marburg virus?

The average fatality rate, according to the WHO is about 50%. Depending on the strain of the virus and the nature of the outbreak and public health measures, the death rate can range between about 25% and 90%.

What the WHO has to say about Monkeypox:World Health Organization chief says monkeypox is now a global emergency

What are the symptoms of Marburg virus?

Symptoms can appear between two and 21 days from time of infection. They can include:

  • High fever
  • Intense headache
  • Severe malaise
  • Muscle pain/aches
  • Diarrhea
  • Abdominal cramps/pain
  • Vomiting/nausea  
  •  ‘Ghost-like’ appearance: sunken eyes, face without expression
  • Lethargy
  • Non-itchy rash
  • Bleeding from nose, gums, vagina
  • Blood in feces, vomit
  • Confusion, irritability, aggression in severe cases

Can the Marburg virus be cured?

There is no cure for the Marburg virus. Early supportive care and treatment of symptoms can improve chances of survival.

What is the treatment for the Marburg virus?

The Marburg virus is treated with fluids, either orally or intravenously. Aside from supportive care, individual symptoms can be treated but no specific remedies for the virus exists.

Marburg experimental treatment in works:Drug found effective against virus similar to Ebola

What animal carries the Marburg virus?

Fruit bats, specifically Rousettus aegyptiacus or Egyptian fruit bat , carry the Marburg virus. The bats are found in sub-Saharan Africa, the Middle East and the Indian subcontinent.

How is the Marburg virus prevented?

The WHO  says community engagement is key to prevention and control of Marburg virus disease. This includes raising awareness around risk factors, contact tracing, good lab services and safe burials.

Prevention hinges on:

  • Reduction of risks for bat-human transmission with the wearing of gloves and protective clothing in caves
  • Cooking animal products all the way through during outbreaks
  • Reduction of human-to-human transmission by frequent hand-washing and protective equipment when interacting with the sick
  • Ensuring a strong public health message with clear information about containment and the virus itself
  • Quick, but respectful burial of those lost to the virus
  • Effective contact tracing and care provided to those identified as having been infected
  • Practice of safer sex, especially by survivors of MVD.

More on the debate about future vaccines:‘This has to be the moment’ to invest in coronavirus vaccines and treatments against future pandemics, experts warn

How did the Marburg virus start?

The initial European outbreak in 1967 was connected to work in a lab involving African green monkeys from Uganda.

Is Marburg or Ebola worse?

The Marburg virus is a cousin of the Ebola virus, both belonging to the Filoviridae family. They have different pathogens  but are both highly fatal and rare.

Both share an average fatality rate of about 50%. Ebola’s range is similar to Marburg, from about 25% to 90%.  

When was the last case of Marburg virus found?

Prior to the July outbreak in Ghana, Marburg was detected in Guinea in August 2021, where at least one infected person died.

Read more about Guinea’s Marburg case:Guinea confirms first case of deadly Marburg virus months after end of Ebola outbreak