Outbreak of deadly Marburg virus ‘similar’ to Ebola confirmed in Uganda

Symptoms include fever, bleeding, vomiting and diarrhoea

Lydia Smith
Tuesday 07 November 2017 16:51 GMT
A health worker leads a training session at an Ebola treatment unit in Liberia in 2014
A health worker leads a training session at an Ebola treatment unit in Liberia in 2014

An outbreak of deadly Marburg virus has been declared in eastern Uganda, the central African country’s Ministry of Health has confirmed.

The disease causes severe viral haemorrhagic fever in humans and is often fatal, with a mortality rate of around 50 per cent, according to the World Health Organisation.

There is no licensed treatment for the virus, but the early treatment of symptoms can improve survival rates in those infected.

Five cases have been reported in the Kween district of Uganda, which borders Kenya. Two cases have been confirmed, one is thought to be probable case and there have also been two suspected cases.

Three people have died - two brothers and a sister - according to CNN.

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, diarrhoea and vomiting.

Haemorrhaging 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.

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 centre with a fever, bleeding, vomiting and diarrhoea. He later died, but no samples were taken from the body.

The man was given a traditional burial attended by around 200 people, according to the WHO.

The victim’s 50-year-old sister, who had nursed the man, then fell ill with similar symptoms of fever, bleeding, vomiting and diarrhoea and died several weeks later.

Laboratory tests at the Uganda Virus Research Institute in Entebbe confirmed that Marburg was the cause of both deaths.

The WHO is now working with Ugandan health authorities to contain the outbreak.

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 travellers who had visited a cave inhabited by Rousettus bat colonies in Uganda.

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