Guinea confirms W/Africa’s first Marburg virus case

Guinea has recorded the first ever case of the Marburg virus, a highly dangerous disease that causes hemorrhagic fever.Guinea, which…

Guinea has recorded the first ever case of the Marburg virus, a highly dangerous disease that causes hemorrhagic fever.Guinea, which has just beaten Ebola, now faces another, more deadly virus. 

The Guinean health authorities confirmed Monday a case of Marburg virus disease in the southern prefecture of Gueckedou.

This is the first time that Marburg or marburgvirus (in reference to the German city where it first appeared in Europe), is identified in the country, and in West Africa, says the World Health Organization (WHO).

Samples taken from a deceased patient and tested by a field laboratory in Gueckedou and by the national hemorrhagic fever laboratory in Guinea were found to be positive for the Marburg virus. 

Further analysis by the ‘Institut Pasteur’ in Senegal confirmed the result.

The patient had sought treatment at a local clinic in the locality of Koundou in Gueckedou, where a medical investigation team had been dispatched to investigate the worsening of his symptoms.

“We applaud the vigilance and swift investigative action of Guinean health workers. The potential for the Marburg virus to spread means we must stop it dead in its tracks,” said Dr. Matshidiso Moeti, World Health Organization (WHO) Regional Director for Africa.

“We are working with the health authorities to implement a rapid response that builds on Guinea’s past experience and expertise in dealing with Ebola, which is transmitted in a similar way,” said Ms. Moeti.

Marburg belongs to the same family of viruses that cause Ebola. 

The Marburg virus was detected less than two months after Guinea declared an end to its Ebola outbreak earlier this year.

According to WHO, efforts are underway to track down people who may have come into contact with the patient. 

An initial team of 10 WHO experts, including epidemiologists and socio-anthropologists, is on the field to help investigate the case and assist national health authorities in rapidly scaling up the emergency response, including risk assessment, disease surveillance, community mobilization, testing, clinical care, infection control and logistical support.

Cross-border surveillance is also being strengthened to ensure early detection of any cases, with neighboring countries on the alert. 

The Ebola control systems in place in Guinea and neighboring countries are proving essential to the emergency response to Marburg.

Marburg is transmitted to humans by fruit bats and is spread among humans through direct contact with the body fluids of infected people, surfaces and materials.

The onset of the disease is sudden, with high fever, severe headache and malaise. 

Many patients develop severe hemorrhagic signs within seven days. 

Case fatality rates have ranged from 24 percent to 88 percent in past epidemics, depending on the strain of virus and the management of the case.

Although there are no approved vaccines or antiviral treatments for the virus, supportive care – rehydration with oral or intravenous fluids – and treatment of specific symptoms improves survival prospects. 

A range of potential treatments, including blood products, immune therapies and drug therapies, are being evaluated.

In Africa, outbreaks and sporadic cases have been reported in Angola, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Kenya, South Africa and Uganda.

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