How deadly is Marburg?
Marburg is one of the most dangerous pathogens known to man.
The World Health Organization says it has a fatality rate (CFR) of 90 percent.
But experts estimate it’s likely closer to the 50 percent mark, similar to its cousin Ebola — another member of the filoviridae family.
This means that of every 100 people confirmed to be infected with Marburg virus, half are expected to die.
However, scientists don’t know the infection fatality rate, which measures every person who becomes infected — not just cases that test positive.
For comparison, Covid had a CFR of around three percent when it exploded onto the scene.
What are the warning signs?
Symptoms appear suddenly and include severe headache, fever, diarrhea, stomach pain, and vomiting. become increasingly severe.
In the early stages of MVD — the disease that causes it — it is very difficult to differentiate it from other tropical diseases, such as Ebola and malaria.
Infected patients become “ghost-like”, often developing deep-set eyes and expressionless faces.
It is usually accompanied by bleeding from multiple orifices – including the nose, gums, eyes, and vagina.
Like Ebola, even dead bodies can transmit the virus to people exposed to their fluids.
How does the virus spread?
Human infection usually begins in areas where people have prolonged exposure to mines or caves inhabited by colonies of infected fruit bats.
Fruit bats naturally harbor the virus.
However, it can then spread between humans, through direct contact with infected people’s bodily fluids, surfaces and materials.
Contaminated clothing and bedding are a risk, as are burial ceremonies that involve direct contact with the deceased.
In Equatorial Guinea, the virus was found in samples taken from deceased patients with symptoms including fever, fatigue, bloodstained vomiting and diarrhea.
Health care workers frequently became infected while treating Marburg patients.
Gavi, an international organization that promotes access to the vaccine, says people in Africa should avoid eating or handling bushmeat.
Is there a vaccine?
There are no vaccines currently approved to treat the virus.
The World Health Organization held an urgent meeting on Monday to discuss the rising cases and summoned experts from around the world.
Members of the Marburg Virus Vaccine Consortium (MARVAC) — speaking to the WHO — said it could take months for effective vaccines and treatments to become available, as manufacturers would need to collect materials and run trials.
Experts have identified 28 experimental vaccine candidates that could be effective against the virus – most of which were developed to combat Ebola.
Five in particular have been highlighted as vaccines to be explored.
Three vaccine developers — Janssen Pharmaceuticals, Public Health Vaccine Institute and Sabin Vaccine Institute — said they may be able to make doses available for testing in the current outbreak.
The Janssen and Sabin vaccines have already gone through phase I clinical trials. However, none of the vaccines is available in large quantities.
Public health vaccines were recently found to protect monkeys from the virus, and the Food and Drug Administration cleared them for human testing.
How bad were the previous Marburg groups and where were they?
Prior to this outbreak, only 30 cases were recorded globally from 2007 to 2022.
Angola, located in central Africa, faced the largest known outbreak in 2004. The fatality rate was 90 percent, with 227 deaths among the 252 infected, according to the Angolan government.
Last September, Ghana declared an end to the Marburg virus outbreak that affected the Ashanti, Savannah and Western regions of the country.
Can you reach Britain or the United States?
Most outbreaks of Marburg disease resolve after a few people have been infected.
For this reason, experts say the chances of a pandemic are slim. However, this is not impossible.
“Marburg outbreaks are always of concern because of the high fatality rate and the potential for person-to-person spread by close contact,” Professor Whitworth told MailOnline yesterday.
However, he advised that the speed with which officials detected the outbreak in Equatorial Guinea may have helped limit the spread of infection so far.
He said: ‘This outbreak has occurred in a remote forested area of Equatorial Guinea which limits the possibility of rapid spread or affecting many people.
It also appears to have been spotted quickly, the number of suspected cases is small, and the first death under investigation occurred on January 7, just about five weeks ago.
But he added: ‘The outbreak occurred close to the international borders with Cameroon and Gabon so international coordination will be required.
Therefore, in general, the risk to Equatorial Guinea and the region is moderate, and the risk of it spreading outside the region is very low.
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