WHO confirms West Africa’s first-ever case of deadly Marburg virus

MANILA, Philippines – The World Health Organization (WHO) confirmed that the Marburg virus disease (MVD) has led to one death in Guinea, a country in West Africa.

Marburg, a highly infectious disease that causes haemorrhagic fever, is transmitted to humans by fruit bats. The virus is in the same family as Ebola.

Based on its past outbreaks, the fatality rate of the virus can vary from 24 to 88 percent depending on virus strain and case management. The deadly virus can be transmitted through contact with infected body fluids and tissue. Common symptoms include headache, vomiting blood, muscle pains and bleeding through various orifices.

The recent death in Guinea due to the Marburg virus marks the first time the disease has been identified in West Africa. It was identified last week, just two months after the country was declared Ebola-free. According to reports, the patient visited a local clinic to seek treatment and his condition quickly deteriorated leading to his death.

WHO supports Guinea after detection of first-ever case of Marburg disease
WHO supports Guinea after detection of first-ever case of Marburg disease | Photo Courtesy: UN

WHO has expressed its concern to halt the spread of the virus before it becomes a global potential.

"The potential for the Marburg virus to spread far and wide means we need to stop it in its tracks," Matshidiso Moeti, WHO's Regional Director for Africa, said in the statement.

"We are working with the health authorities to implement a swift response that builds on Guinea's past experience and expertise in managing Ebola, which is transmitted in a similar way," Moeti said.


According to WHO, the natural hosts of Marburg virus can be traced to Rousettus aegyptiacus, fruit bats of the Pteropodidae family. Human MVD infection is linked to prolonged exposure to mines or caves that are inhabited by the Rousettus bat.

The virus spreads through human-to-human transmission via direct contact. It can be passed through broken skin or mucous membranes, blood secretions, organs or other bodily fluids of infected people, and with surfaces and materials (e.g. bedding, clothing) contaminated with these fluids.


The incubation period varies from 2 to 21 days, with intervals from infection to onset of symptoms.

The MVD begins abruptly with high fever, severe headache and severe malaise. Other common symptoms include:
  • Muscle aches and pains
  • Severe watery diarrhoea, abdominal pain and cramping
  • Nausea and vomiting can begin on the third day
  • Diarrhoea can persist for a week. The appearance of patients at this phase has been described as showing “ghost-like” drawn features, deep-set eyes, expressionless faces, and extreme lethargy.
  • During the 1967 European outbreak, a non-itchy rash was also noted between 2 and 7 days after the initial onset of symptoms.
  • Severe haemorrhagic manifestations develop between 5 and 7 days.
  • Fatal cases experience some form of bleeding, often from multiple areas.


According to WHO, there are still no vaccines or antiviral treatments approved for MVD. Patients are given supportive care such as rehydration with oral or intravenous fluids and treatment of specific symptoms, to increase their chances of survival.

— Sally, The Summit Express

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