Panic as Ebola-like virus, Marburg hits Africa

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Africa is currently under the threat of a severe and highly fatal disease caused by a virus from the same family as the one responsible for Ebola virus.

This infection called Marburg virus has already been recorded in a city called Turkana along the Kenya-Uganda border in East Africa.

Mortality rate of the Marburg virus, which is in the same Filoviridae family as Ebola, has a case fatality ratio of up to 88 per cent. Marburg, like other filoviruses, can be spread by contact with blood, bodily fluids or tissues or contact with contaminated objects.

Early symptoms are flu-like, with a sudden onset of fever, chills, muscle aches and decreased appetite. This can progress to abdominal pain, vomiting, dehydration, disorientation and joint pain.

The most dramatic symptoms are the dilation of blood vessels, which can turn eyes bright red, and bleeding from the gastrointestinal tract, under the skin, from any wounds and mucous membranes. There is no proven treatment other than supportive care.

According to Reporternews, the latest outbreak began in September when a game hunter in his 30s was admitted to the hospital with a high fever, vomiting and diarrhoea. The man lived near a cave that contained many African fruit bats, which are the reservoir host, or the host in which the virus normally resides but does not show signs of disease.

Primates, including humans, can get infected from contact with bats, bat urine or droppings. The game hunter was initially treated for malaria but his condition continued to deteriorate and he was transferred to another hospital, where he died. His sister and brother later died, and two healthcare workers fell ill.

Marburg virus was first identified in 1967 when an outbreak of a hemorrhagic fever began at the same time in laboratories in Marburg and Frankfurt in Germany as well as in Belgrade, Serbia (then in Yugoslavia).

The outbreak affected 31 people and it began among laboratory workers, then medical personnel and finally family members who had been caring for those infected.

As with the Ebola outbreaks, public health officials are already trying to track down everyone who had contact with someone who may have Marburg.

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