Brazzaville/Conakry – The Marburg Virus Disease has been identified for the first time in West Africa. The virus was confirmed in the Republic of Guinea on Monday.
The disease was identified when the patient sought treatment at a local clinic in the Koundou area of Gueckedou, where a medical investigation team were been dispatched to probe his worsening symptoms
The World Health Organization (WHO) Regional Director for Africa, Dr Matshidiso Moeti confirmed that the government of Guinea had informed the WHO about the disease.
“We applaud the alertness and the quick investigative action by Guinea’s health workers. 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.”
Where the Disease was Discovered
Health authorities in Guinea confirmed that the case of Marburg virus disease was discovered in the southern Gueckedou prefecture.
Guéckédou Prefecture is in Nzérékoré region, south-western Guinea. The village where the case resided is near both Sierra Leone and Liberian borders.
Gueckedou, where Marburg has been confirmed, is also the same region where cases of the 2021 Ebola outbreak in Guinea as well as the 2014–2016 West Africa outbreak were initially detected.
How the case was discovered
The case who was a male had onset of symptoms on 25 July.
On August 1, he attended a small health facility near his village of residence with symptoms of fever, headache, fatigue, abdominal pain, and gingival haemorrhage.
A rapid diagnostic test for malaria was performed which was negative and the patient received supportive care with rehydration, parenteral antibiotics and treatment to manage symptoms.
On 2 August, he died in the community and an alert was raised by the sub-prefecture public health care facility to the prefectorial department of health in Guéckédou.
Following the alert, an investigation team comprised of national authorities and WHO experts were deployed to conduct an in-depth investigation.
The team collected a post-mortem oral swab sample, which was sent the same day to the viral haemorrhagic fever reference laboratory in Guéckédou.
On 3 August, a real-time PCR was conducted which confirmed the sample was positive for Marburg virus disease and negative for Ebola virus disease.
On 5 August, the National Reference Laboratory in Conakry confirmed by real-time PCR of the positive Marburg result while on 9 August Institut Pasteur Dakar in Senegal provided reconfirmation that the result was positive for Marburg virus disease and negative for Ebola virus disease.
Three family members and a healthcare worker were identified as high-risk close contacts and their health is being monitored. The four high-risk close contacts are asymptomatic
Contact tracing is ongoing, along with active case searching in health facilities and at the community level.
A total of 146 contacts have been identified and as of 8 August, 145 contacts have been followed up.
About Marburg Virus
Marburg virus disease (MVD) is a highly virulent, epidemic-prone disease associated with high case-fatality rates.
In the early course of the disease, clinical diagnosis of Marburg Virus Disease is difficult to distinguish from other tropical febrile illnesses, because of the similarities in the clinical symptoms.
Differential diagnoses to be excluded include, Ebola virus disease, as well as malaria, typhoid fever, leptospirosis, rickettsial infection, and plague.
The Marburg is reportedly transmitted to people from fruit bats and spreads among humans through direct contact with the bodily fluids of infected people, surfaces and materials.
The Illness, according to WHO, is said to begin abruptly, with high fever, severe headache and malaise.
Many patients are said to develop severe haemorrhagic signs within seven days. Case fatality rates have varied from 24 per cent to 88 per cent in past outbreaks depending on virus strain and case management.
There are currently no vaccines or antiviral treatments approved to treat the virus but supportive care like rehydration with oral or intravenous fluids and treatment of specific symptoms has been said to improve survival.
A range of potential treatments, including blood products, immune therapies and drug therapies, are being evaluated.