Marburg virus: Grave fears over surge in deadly disease

WHO have said the viral disease is "highly infectious" and previous outbreaks have had mortality rate of up to 88 per cent.

The "highly infectious" Marburg virus has claimed the lives of at least nine people this week after it was detected in Equatorial Guinea, forcing a snap quarantine for over 200 locals.

The World Health Organisation made the announcement on Monday and shared that the virulent disease, which causes hemorrhagic fever and can have a fatality rate of up to 88%, has surfaced for the first time in the west African country's history.

Despite the new challenges faced by the country, WHO have praised the swift medical response and are facilitating medical coordination, sending specialists and equipment such as testing kits to help quickly detect and cease the spread of the virus.

Doctors in protective clothing that protects them against the Marburg virus are seen speaking to a man.
The WHO praised the country's medical system for responding quickly to its first case of the deadly Marburg virus. Source: Reuters

What is the Marburg virus?

Marburg virus is considered "rare" by the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) but is easily spread between humans through direct contact of bodily fluids such as blood, urine or saliva and can be transferred from surfaces touched by an infected individual.

The original outbreak was linked to laboratory work in Marburg, Germany, where the virus gained its namesake, however, its is believed to be transferred to humans after prolonged exposure to mines or caves inhabited by bat colonies.

The Marburg virus comes from the same viral family as the well-known Ebola virus.

What are symptoms of the Marburg virus?

According to CDC, there is an incubation period of between 2-21 days before symptoms abruptly start to show in an infected individual.

Common symptom include fever, severe headaches, chills and muscle pain. Nausea, diarrhoea and abdominal pain are also commonly experienced.

It is noted that around the 5-day mark a rash often spreads on the body and is predominant on the chest, back and stomach of the infected individual. These symptoms become increasingly more severe and patients can experience jaundice, severe weight loss, shock, haemorrhaging and multi-organ dysfunction.

What is the treatment of the Marburg virus?

There are currently no vaccines or antiviral treatments available to treat Marburg virus.

The WHO have expressed that "supportive care" such as prioritising rehydration and treatment of individual symptoms can increase survival rate.

There have been successful experimental treatments involving animals, however, these have not been validated for human use.

What has the WHO said about the most recent Marburg outbreak?

The WHO have arranged an "urgent meeting" to discuss the outbreak in Equatorial Guinea and will discuss research findings to help inform treatment possibilities.

In their latest statement, WHO's regional director for Africa highlighted how important the country's early detection of the virus was.

"Thanks to the rapid and decisive action by the Equatorial Guinean authorities in confirming the disease, emergency response can get to full steam quickly," Dr Matshidiso Moeti said.

Do you have a story tip? Email:

You can also follow us on Facebook, Instagram, TikTok and Twitter and download the Yahoo News app from the App Store or Google Play.