A severe, highly fatal virus called Marburg has infected and killed three people in Uganda. While that’s a small number of infections, any cases of Marburg are cause for concern given the virus’ high fatality rates and similarities to the deadly Ebola virus.
Here’s what you should know.
The central African country’s Ministry of Health has confirmed an outbreak of deadly Marburg virus has been declared in eastern Uganda. According to the World Health Organization, the disease causes severe viral hemorrhagic fever in humans and is often fatal, with a mortality rate of around 50 %. There is no licensed treatment for the virus, but the early treatment of symptoms can improve survival rates in those infected.
The first case of Marburg was reported in the Kween region of Uganda in September. The man, who was in his 30s, worked as a game hunter and lived near a cave which contained bats. He was admitted to a health center with a fever, bleeding, vomiting, and diarrhea. He later died, but no samples were taken from the body.
The victim’s 50-year-old sister, who had nursed the man, then fell ill with similar symptoms of fever, bleeding, vomiting, and diarrhea and died several weeks later.Laboratory tests at the Uganda Virus Research Institute in Entebbe confirmed that Marburg was the cause of both deaths.
Cases till now
Five cases have been reported in the Kween district of Uganda, which borders Kenya. Two cases have been confirmed, one is thought to be the probable cause and there have also been two suspected cases.
Although Marburg and Ebola are caused by two different viruses, they are both members of the Filoviridae family and are clinically similar.
Both diseases are rare but have the capacity to cause “dramatic outbreaks” with high fatality rates, as seen during the 2014 outbreak of Ebola which killed more than 11,000 people across West Africa.
The incubation period for the Marburg virus is two to 21 days and symptoms include high fever, severe headaches, diarrhea, and vomiting.
Hemorrhaging begins between five and seven days after the fever starts.
Marburg virus infection in humans comes from prolonged exposure to mines or caves inhabited by Rousettus bat colonies.The virus is then transmitted from human to human via direct contact with blood, secretions, organs or other bodily fluids of infected people, including exposure to materials contaminated with infected bodily fluids.
Marburg virus was first detected in 1967 after two large outbreaks were detected in the German town of Marburg and the city of Frankfurt. There was also an outbreak in the Serbian capital Belgrade.The outbreaks were traced back to laboratory work using African green monkeys.
In 2008, two independent cases were reported in travelers who had visited a cave inhabited by Rousettus bat colonies in Uganda.