Guinea in West Africa has confirmed a case of Marburg disease in a patient who died on August 2 in southern Gueckedou prefecture. Marburg virus is a lethal relative of Ebola and spreads through bodily fluids and contaminated surfaces or materials.
The virus has shown a fatality rate of up to 88% in the past. There are no known approved vaccines or antiviral treatments for the disease. But oral or intravenous rehydration and treatment of specific symptoms improve survival rates.
His three family members are being monitored. Investigators are trying to identify the source of infection as well as other possible close contacts.
The WHO said that the patient's symptoms were traced back to July 25. He was treated for malaria at a local clinic, and the Marburg virus was detected in post-mortem tests. WHO Regional Director for Africa, Dr. Matshidiso Moeti applauded the alertness and quick investigative action taken by the Guinea health workers.
The WHO has deployed a team of ten experts - epidemiologists and socio-anthropologists - to support the local authorities, building on Guinea's past experience and expertise in managing Ebola. The team will tackle risk assessment, disease surveillance, community mobilisation and screening, clinical care, infection control, and logistical support.
Moeti said that the Marburg virus has the potential to spread far and wide, and we need to stop it in its tracks. He added that the threat of the Marburg virus is high at the national and regional level, but low globally.
The Marburg virus is transmissible from animals to humans. It is associated with exposure to caves or mines housing colonies of Rousettus bats. It has been previously reported in South Africa, Angola, Kenya, Uganda, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.