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.
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