The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) alerted doctors about the cases of the Marburg virus. It is a rare yet deadly infection. It is similar to the Ebola virus as it can also cause viral hemorrhagic fevers causing internal bleeding. If not treated, it can damage multiple organ systems.
Recent Marburg Virus Outbreaks in Tanzania and Equatorial Guinea
The CDC’s new health advisory came in response to the recent outbreaks in Equatorial Guinea and Tanzania.
According to the health ministry of Tanzania, Marburg cases were confirmed. On Wednesday, the nation identified eight cases connected to the outbreak. Out of those eight cases, five of them were fatal.
In past, outbreaks of Marburg and Ebola had death rates ranging from 25% to 90%.
These cases are similar to Ebola. Symptoms start with a fever, headache, muscle aches, or chills. Then, the patient will experience rash along with vomiting, nausea, and diarrhea. Some infected patients may get a sore throat or chest pain.
How Is It Transmitted?
It is not known how the virus spreads from an animal host to humans.
But in 2008, tourists who visited Uganda got infected by the virus. It was said that the most likely routes of infection were infected bat feces and aerosols.
When the virus is transmitted to people, the infected person can infect another person. The virus can spread through contact, like broken skin, or mucous membranes in the nose, mouth, or eyes.
Is There a Cure for this Virus?
Unfortunately, there is no specific treatment for this disease. If you get infected, you need hospital therapy. The treatment includes regulating your fluids and electrolytes, as well as maintaining your oxygen status and blood pressure.
For severe infections, you may require the replacement of lost blood and clotting factors.
There are monoclonal antibodies that are being developed for the Ebola virus disease. And they could be tested for Marburg virus disease as well.
In addition, several experimental treatments have been shown to prevent the spread of this virus in animals.
One of the monoclonal antibodies, Remdesivir, could be used to treat this viral disease. It is currently approved for human use to treat COVID-19.
Is the Virus Easily Spread?
It is spread between people through close contact. But it will only spread after the infected patients show symptoms. As mentioned, it is transmitted through infected body fluids, like blood.
In this case, it is not airborne.
Just like the Ebola virus, contact tracing is also a powerful tool to combat outbreaks.
The incubation time ranges from two to 21 days. In that case, contacts must be observed for extended periods for any potential symptoms.
Unfortunately, if you have this virus but you are asymptomatic, it cannot be detected. One major cause of the spread of this virus is postmortem transmission.
It means that if you have attended a burial of a person infected with this virus and you have direct skin-to-skin contact with people who died from the disease, then you are likely to get infected.
When Was It First Detected?
The first detection was in 1967 during an outbreak of hemorrhagic fever. It occurred simultaneously in laboratories in Marburg and Frankfurt, Germany, and Belgrade, Serbia. The outbreak was linked to the importation of infected African green monkeys from Uganda for use in research.
The virus is a member of the filovirus family, which also includes the Ebola virus, and is named after the city of Marburg, where the first outbreak occurred. Since its discovery, there have been sporadic outbreaks of Marburg virus disease (MVD) in Africa, including Uganda, Angola, and the Democratic Republic of Congo.
This virus is a severe and often fatal disease, with a high mortality rate of up to 90%. Outbreaks have typically occurred in isolated rural communities and have been associated with activities such as mining, where people may come into contact with the virus through exposure to bat or rodent droppings.
In recent years, there have been efforts to improve diagnosis, surveillance, and control of outbreaks, including the development of a vaccine candidate.
How to Prevent Transmission?
The CDC issued a level 2 travel alert for Equatorial Guinea. It means that visitors must avoid going to provinces with reported cases if it is not necessary.
If you need to travel to Tanzania, you should exercise standard precautions. For instance, avoid sick people.
You should also avoid contact with bats or other animals. This virus is known to circulate in African fruit bats and it can be transmitted to humans through contact with other animals.
If you need to go to those two countries, you should avoid contact with bats, monkeys, and other animals. Most of all, avoid consuming bushmeat.
Then, make sure to practice good hygiene. That is, you must wash your hands frequently with soap and water. If these two are not available, you may use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
You should also avoid direct contact with bodily fluids. As mentioned, the virus can be transmitted through direct contact with these fluids of infected individuals.
Travelers must avoid close contact with sick individuals and must not touch the blood, urine, or other bodily fluids of infected people without using gloves.
If you care for someone who may be infected with this virus, then make sure to use protective equipment. That is, when handling the infected person’s blood or urine, make sure to wear gloves, masks, and gowns.
Should We Be Afraid?
Marburg virus disease outbreaks have been sporadic. However, the cases are increasing in recent years. But there is no need to panic. You just need to avoid traveling to those two countries mentioned by the CDC. Then, make sure that you have strong immune system.