EpidemicsFirst Case of Marburg Virus Infection Detected in Guinea

Published 10 August 2021

The deadly Marburg disease has claimed its first victim in Guinea. The disease has been reported in Africa before, but the infection in Guinea is the first time the disease has been reported in West Africa. The Marburg virus is part of the Ebola family. In 2014-2015, tens of thousands died in Guinea, Sierra Leon, and Liberia from a rampaging Ebola outbreak.

On Monday, 9 August, a case of an infection with the Marburg virus, an extremely dangerous disease causing hemorrhagic fever, was discovered in Guinea, the first in West Africa.

The World Health Organization (WHO), which announced the infection, said in a statement that the the Marburg virus was a “high” threat at the national and regional level, but a “weak” threat at the international level.

Marburg virus disease, which belongs to the same family as the virus responsible for Ebola virus disease, was detected less than two months after Guinea declared the end of the Ebola epidemic which had erupted at the beginning of the year, “said the WHO Africa office.

The Guinean government on Monday night has confirmed the appearance of the Marburg virus in Guinea.

The case was detected in the Prefecture of Guéckedou, in the south of the country, in a village located in a forest area near the borders with Sierra Leone and Liberia. The infected man died on 2 August, and doctors reported that he began to exhibit symptoms of the disease on 25 July.

Le Monde reports that Blood samples taken from the patient and tested by a Guéchadou field laboratory as well as by the Guinean National Hemorrhagic Fever Laboratory have been positive for Marburg virus. Complementary analyzes carried out by the Institut Pasteur of Senegal then confirmed this result. The patient had been treated in a Koundou clinic (Guéckedy Prefecture), where a team of medical investigators had been dispatched to study the case as his condition was worsening.

A team of ten WHO experts is already on the ground and provides support to the Guinean national health authorities, which are leading the investigation. Guinea has also announced that it was tightening cross-border surveillance.

Marburg virus disease is transmitted to humans by frugivorous bats and spreads among humans by direct contact with an infected person’s body fluids, or by touching contaminated surfaces and materials, according to the WHO.

There were previous outbreaks of Marburg disease in Africa, with cases reported in South Africa, Angola, Kenya, Uganda, and the Democratic Republic of Congo. But this is the first time the virus is detected in West Africa.

The disease begins suddenly, with high fever, intense headaches, and general malaise. The lethality rates ranged from 24 percent to 88 percent, depending on the viral strain and case management. There are no vaccines or antiviral treatments, but oral or intravenous rehydration and the treatment of specific symptoms improve survival rates.

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