The Threat of Killer Mar­burg

Once in­fected, a pa­tient de­vel­ops the gen­eral symptoms as­so­ci­ated vi­ral dis­eases such as mus­cle aches, loss of ap­petite, nau­sea, vom­it­ing, di­ar­rhoea, headache and ab­dom­i­nal pains.

Diplomat East Africa - - Table of Contents - BRIAN MURE­I­THI ex­plains

As the world grap­ples with and con­tains the Ebola Virus Dis­ease epi­demic in West Africa, there has emerged an­other killer dis­ease which presents sim­i­lar symptoms, ge­netic mu­ta­tions and is of­ten con­fused with Ebola. This is the Mar­burg Virus, which too has its roots in Africa.

Mar­burg is a rare but a se­vere hem­or­rhagic fever dis­ease which af­fects both hu­man and non­hu­man pri­mates. It was first re­ported in 1967 in Ger­many when lab­o­ra­tory re­searchers died af­ter con­tract­ing the dis­ease which re­sulted in an epi­demic. The re­searchers had col­lected some mon­keys from Uganda and took them to Mar­burg and Frank­furt in Ger­many for anal­y­sis, and it was found that they got in­fected from han­dling the an­i­mals. The Mar­burg city got its name from the tragic ex­pe­ri­ence.

The dis­ease is caused by a zootomic RNA virus of the filo virus fam­ily of hae­m­or­rhagic fevers. The four species of Ebola virus are the only other mem­bers of the filo virus fam­ily and, ac­cord­ing to the US-based Cen­tre for Dis­eases Con­trol; it is known to be the most vir­u­lent pathogens to in­fect peo­ple.

Once in­fected, a pa­tient de­vel­ops the gen­eral symptoms as­so­ci­ated vi­ral dis­eases such as mus­cle aches, loss of ap­petite, nau­sea, vom­it­ing, di­ar­rhoea, headache and ab­dom­i­nal pains. A rash also ap­pears on the chest and back of the body. Upon fur­ther pro­gres­sion it causes jaun­dice, se­vere weight loss, sore throats, in­flam­ma­tion of the pan­creas, liver fail­ure, or­gans dys­func­tions and delir­ium. Since it is hae­m­or­rhagic, pa­tients de­velop bleed­ing from mul­ti­ple ar­eas in their body. Once it spreads in the en­tire body and, es­pe­cially the brain, it makes the pa­tient emo­tion­less.

Its in­cu­ba­tion pe­riod is usu­ally be­tween five to seven days within which symptoms emerge. It nei­ther has a spe­cific treat­ment nor is there a vac­cine or cure so one a per­son is in­fected, they are only of­fered gen­eral sup­port­ive gen­eral sup­port­ive ther­apy in iso­la­tion.

Its mode of trans­mis­sion is also sim­i­lar to the Ebola virus. It is trans­mit­ted through di­rect con­tact with blood, body tis­sues and flu­ids of in­fected peo­ple and also han­dling dead or ill an­i­mals such as bats in­fected with the virus.

It also re­pro­duces it­self fast in the body and pro­duce pro­teins that dampen the im­mune sys­tem. Although it is fa­tal, Mar­burg virus dis­ease is not as deadly as Ebola.

Ebola has a fa­tal­ity rate of 90 per cent com­pared to Mar­burg which has a sur­vival rate of be­tween 10 to 40 per cent, a rea­son which is at­trib­uted to the fact that it is not so ef­fec­tive in sup­press­ing the im­mune sys­tem of the body com­pared to Ebola.

Its dif­fer­ence from the Ebola virus can be made by analysing the gly­co­pro­tein genes through a blood test re­ferred to as en­zymelinked im­mune sor­bent as­say and re­verse tran­scrip­tase poly­merase chain re­ac­tion. It is also not easy to catch and in the event of an out­break, it can eas­ily be con­tained if it is de­tected early and may not snow­ball like Ebola.

In Oc­to­ber 2014, Uganda con­firmed a fa­tal Mar­burg case of a 30-year -old health­care worker who con­tracted it while on duty which prompted both the health min­istry and the World Health Or­gan­i­sa­tion to is­sue a warn­ing on the dis­ease. The coun­try was later de­clared Mar­burg free af­ter sus­pi­cious cases were quar­an­tined.

There have not been any re­ported Mar­burg sit­u­a­tion in the rest of the re­gion far apart from the few iso­lated cases in Uganda and some parts of Cen­tral Africa

Once in­fected, a pa­tient de­vel­ops the gen­eral symptoms as­so­ci­ated vi­ral dis­eases such as mus­cle aches, loss of ap­petite, nau­sea, vom­it­ing, di­ar­rhoea, headache and ab­dom­i­nal pains

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