Marburg virus: At a glance
- Marburg virus disease is a highly virulent disease that causes haemorrhagic fever, with a fatality ratio of up to 88%.
- It is in the same family as the virus that causes Ebola virus disease.
- Marburg virus spread through human-to-human transmission.
- The incubation period for Marbury disease varies from 2 to 21 days.
- There are no vaccines or antiviral treatments approved to treat the virus.
The West African country of Equatorial Guinea and Tanzania are facing their first known outbreaks of Marburg virus, which is in the same family of viruses as the Ebola virus.
The UAE and GCC counties are advising travellers to avoid non-essential travel to a specific province in Equatorial Guinea and Tanzania due to the recent outbreak of the infectious virus.
In Equatorial Guinea, there have been at least nine laboratory-confirmed cases, seven of which resulted in death, and 20 probable cases of dead individuals in this outbreak, according to the World Health Organization.
The outbreak of the hemorrhagic fever has spread beyond the province of Kie-Ntem, where it caused the first known deaths in January and reached Bata, the economic capital of the west African nation.
Tanzania also announced last week five deaths from Marburg, but insisted it has the spread under control after sending a rapid response team to the northwestern region of Kagera which borders Uganda.
WHO said it was working with local authorities and vaccine manufacturers to set up trials in the affected countries.
The outbreak, as it stands, is larger and may be seen in more provinces. More than the case count number, it's the extent of the geographical spread
WHO warns over spread of virus
The WHO has warned of a potential large scale epidemic which could spread to neighbouring Gabon and Cameroon.
The WHO also added there were currently nine deaths and 16 suspected cases with symptoms including fever, fatigue, diarrhea and vomiting. Let's have a look at the causes, symptoms, diagnosis and treatment options of Marburg disease.
What is Marburg disease?
Marburg virus disease is a highly virulent disease that causes haemorrhagic fever, with a fatality ratio of up to 88%. It is in the same family as the virus that causes Ebola virus disease. There have been a dozen major Marburg outbreaks since 1967, mostly in southern and eastern Africa.
How does the disease spread?
Like Ebola, the Marburg virus originates in bats and spreads among humans through direct contact with the bodily fluids of infected people, surfaces and materials. The rare virus was first identified in 1967.
Symptoms of Marburg disease
Illness caused by Marburg virus begins abruptly, with high fever, severe headache and severe malaise. Many patients develop severe haemorrhagic symptoms within seven days. The virus is transmitted to people from fruit bats and spreads among humans through direct contact with the bodily fluids of infected people, surfaces and materials.
Diagnosis of the virus
Clinically, Marburg virus can be difficult to distinguish from other infectious diseases like malaria, typhoid fever, shigellosis, meningitis, and other viral hemorrhagic fevers. The following diagnostic methods are used to confirm that symptoms are caused by Marburg virus infection:
- Antibody-capture enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA)
- Antigen-capture detection tests
- Serum neutralization test
- Reverse transcriptase polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) assay
- Electron microscopy
- Virus isolation by cell culture
Patient samples pose an extreme biohazard risk; laboratory testing on non-inactivated samples should be performed under the strictest biological containment conditions. When transported nationally and internationally, all biological specimens should be packaged using the triple packaging system.
There are no vaccines or antiviral treatments approved to treat the virus. However, supportive care – rehydration with oral or intravenous fluids – and treatment of specific symptoms, improves survival. A range of potential treatments, including blood products, immune therapies and drug therapies, as well as candidate vaccines with phase 1 data are being evaluated.
Incubation period: Within an incubation period of 2-21 days, infected individuals get fever, chills, headache, and myalgia (muscle pain).
The UAE has advised Emiratis not to travel to Tanzania and Guinea due to the recent outbreak of the Marburg virus. To ensure the safety of Emirati citizens, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation has recommended postponing all travel plans to these destinations until further notice. In case of an emergency, Emiratis are advised to contact the ministry through the hotline number 0097180024.
The Ministry's warning comes as a precautionary measure to prevent the spread of the virus and to ensure the safety of UAE citizens.
Saudi Arabia has advised against traveling to Equatorial Guinea and Tanzania due to the Marburg virus outbreak.
Saudi Arabia’s Public Healthy Authority (WEQAYA) advised its citizens not to travel to the two African countries until the disease was brought under control, the official Saudi Press Agency (SPA) reported on Friday.
The Ministry of Health has affirmed its continued close follow-up on regional and global developments regarding the health conditions related to monitoring a number of cases infected with the Marburg Virus Disease (MVD) in Tanzania and Equatorial Guinea.
Oman has issued a similar warning with the health ministry calling on its citizens not to travel to both countries unless“extremely necessary.” The death toll from the outbreak of Marburg virus in Equatorial Guinea has reached nine, the health ministry said on Thursday amid World Health Organization estimates the real toll is double that.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs has urged Kuwaitis to avoid traveling to the United Republic of Tanzania and Equatorial Guinea until further notice. The ministry has also advised citizens in these countries to adhere to the preventive health measures and guidelines issued by local health authorities.
The decision was made following reports of Marburg virus disease outbreaks in these two countries and based on the recommendations of the Gulf Center for Disease Prevention and Control and the Ministry of Health in Kuwait.
The health authorities of Bahrain have allayed concerns over the Marburg virus that has claimed several lives in Equatorial Guinea and Tanzania. The Health Ministry said the virus was unlikely to affect Bahrain as the kingdom had no direct flights to the two African countries .
Owing to the increasing number of visitors to Thailand, the department would closely monitor the situation through the WHO, the Department of Disease Control said. Thailand has tightened restrictions and urged health centres throughout the country to be on alert, as the two possible cases of the virus on the Cameroon – Equatorial Guinea boundary have just been reported.