The Marburg virus was reported for the first time in Germany and Serbia. The symptoms include fever, strong headache and muscle pain.
The Marburg virus belongs to the deadly Ebola virus family. According to the World Health Organization, it was discovered in 1967 in Marburg and Frankfurt in Germany and Belgrade in Serbia following the death of 7 people and infection of 31 people in a simultaneous outbreak.
What is Marburg virus?
The cause of the virus outbreak is African green monkeys imported from Uganda. However, scientists have attributed the outbreak of the virus to other animals as well since that time.
The infection is transmitted to humans mostly by people who have spent long periods in caves and mines inhabited by bats.
This is the first outbreak of the virus in Ghana but a number of other African countries have recorded infections with the virus, including the Democratic Republic of Congo, Kenya, South Africa, Uganda and Zimbabwe.
Facts about the virus outbreak:
- 2017 in Uganda: three cases of infection and three deaths.
- In 2012 in Uganda: 15 cases of infection, and 4 deaths.
- In 2005 in Angola: 374 cases of infection and 329 deaths.
- From 1998 to 2000 in the Democratic Republic of the Congo: 154 cases of infection and 128 deaths.
- In 1967 in Germany: 29 cases of infection, and seven deaths.
What are the symptoms of the disease?
The infection is spontaneous and symptoms include fever, strong headache and muscle pain. This is often followed, after three days, by watery diarrhoea, stomach pain, nausea and vomiting.
The World Health Organization says: “The features of patients at this stage are described as ghost-like drawn features, with sunken eyes, expressionless faces with extreme lethargy.”
Many of the infected patients suffer from bleeding in various parts of the body and they die eight to nine days after contracting the disease for the first time due to severe bleeding and shock.
The World Health Organization says the virus kills half of those infected on average but the most harmful strains kill up to 88 percent of infected people.
How does the virus spread?
The Egyptian fruit bat mostly carries the virus. Monkeys and African green pigs also carry the virus. The disease is spread among humans through bodily fluids and contaminated bed linen. Even if people recover, their blood or semen, for example, can still infect others for months afterwards.
How can the patient be treated?
There is no specific vaccine or treatment for the virus. However, the World Health Organization says a range of blood products, medicines and immunotherapies are being developed.
Doctors can likely relieve symptoms of the disease by giving hospitalised patients plenty of fluids and replacing blood lost due to bleeding.
How can the virus be contained?
Gavi, an international organisation that promotes access to the vaccine, says people in Africa should not eat or handle wild animal meat.
The World Health Organisation says people should also avoid contact with pigs in areas where the disease is common.
Men who have contracted the virus must use condoms for a year after symptoms appear or even take semen tests to double check the negative result.
Those who bury the dead who have contracted the virus must also avoid touching the body of the deceased.