Coronavirus: Five new diseases may emerge yearly says expert
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Health authorities in the West African country of Guinea have warned of a new case of the Marburg virus as the World Health Organisation (WHO) announced a death today. This represents the first time the virus has been identified in Western Africa, just two months after Guinea had declared itself free of Ebola, after a spike in cases earlier this year. Matshidiso Moeti, WHO’s regional director for Africa, warned this week: “The potential for the Marburg virus to spread far and wide means we need to stop it in its tracks.
“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.”
There have been 12 major Marburg outbreaks since 1967, mostly in southern and eastern Africa.
One outbreak occurred in Uganda in October 2017 – the country has previously had four small outbreaks between 2007 and 2014.
There were only two cases confirmed during the 2017 outbreak, but when they were discovered, one expert summarised why the virus is feared so much.
Amesh Adalja, a spokesman for the Infectious Disease Society of America explained at the time, said: “Marburg is a virus that is in the same family as Ebola, and it basically has very similar characteristics.
“So it spreads in blood and body fluids and thrives in areas in which people are not able to do effective infection control and take care of patients with appropriate personal protection equipment.
“Although Marburg is a scary, deadly disease, it’s not very contagious.
“You have to remember that Uganda has dealt with Ebola and Marburg outbreaks for several decades. They are usually very adept at dealing with these.
“It’s not completely foreign the way Ebola was in West Africa.”
As Gavi, The Vaccine Alliance outlines on its website, the disease was first discovered in Marburg, a town in Germany, in 1967.
The largest known outbreak of Marburg virus, in Angola in 2004, infected over 250 people and had a 90 percent fatality rate.
However, the WHO says that the fatality rate of outbreaks have varied from 24 percent to 88 percent, depending on virus strain and case management.
The Vaccine Alliance adds that, given globalisation has made travel and the movement of goods much easier, the risk for global spread can be “high.”
Marburg virus is one of two viruses of the Filovirus family, the other being the Ebola virus.
Marburg virus can cause severe and fatal hemorrhagic fever – other symptoms include headache, vomiting blood, muscle pains and bleeding through various orifices.
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As Mr Adalja highlighted, the virus can spread through blood and other bodily fluids, such as saliva and vomit.
The Egyptian rousette fruit bats often harbour the virus. African green monkeys have, in the past, spread the virus to people in Uganda, but pigs can also become infected and can be a source of infection.
The Government guidance adds: “Fatal cases usually exhibit some form of bleeding, often from multiple sites.
“Many of the early symptoms of Marburg hemorrhagic fever are similar to those of other infectious diseases, such as malaria or typhoid.
“Confirmation of the disease requires laboratory testing.”
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