The first case of the deadly Marburg virus has been found in West Africa, with experts threatening that it could “spread wide and far” and needs to be eradicated as soon as possible. The virus has sparked similar fears and chaos caused by the Ebola pandemic between 2013-2016 in West Africa. Dr Matshidiso Moeti, the WHO’s regional director for Africa, said: “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.”
The WHO has confirmed that the new case was found in a man from Guinea, near the borders with Sierra Leone and Liberia, and raised fears that the virus could spread across the continent affecting the neighbouring countries first.
The patient first showed symptoms on July, 25 before he attended his local health clinic.
He died the next day, having been in close contact with four other people who are currently showing no symptoms.
Contact tracing is now ongoing at the community level along with active case searching in health facilities.
Guinea’s new case comes just two months after the country was declared free of Ebola following a brief flare-up earlier this year that killed 12 people.
Sporadic cases of the Marburg virus have been reported in South Africa, Angola, Kenya, Uganda, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
But this is the first time that the virus has been identified in West Africa.
“In the early course of the disease, clinical diagnosis of MVD is difficult to distinguish from other tropical febrile illnesses, because of the similarities in the clinical symptoms.”
Although PCR tests are capable of identifying the virus, it is incredibly hard to do so due to the virus’ similarities to Ebola.
The WHO also warned of Guinea’s fragile healthcare system despite it reacting quickly to the case.
Transmission of the virus is associated with direct contact with blood or other bodily fluids of an infected person.
Symptoms can range from fever, headache, fatigue, abdominal pain, and gingival haemorrhage.
While the WHO has not advised against travel to and from Guinea, it has warned of the transmission of the virus between bats and humans making it easier for it to pass across borders.
The WHO added: “Cross-border population movement and community mixing between Guinea and neighbouring Sierra Leone and Liberia may increase the risk of cross-border spread and as such, the Ministry of Health and Sanitation has proactively assessed the situation together with stakeholders and the district health leadership in Kono and Kailahun districts of Sierra Leone have been alerted.
“Health authorities in Sierra Leone and Liberia have activated contingency plans and have started public health measures at the points of entry with Guinea.
“Additionally the potential transmission of the virus between bat colonies and humans also pose an increased risk for cross-border spread.
“These factors suggest a high risk at the national level, requiring an immediate and coordinated response with support from international partners.
“The risk at the regional level is high, based on the fact that the Gueckedou prefecture is well connected to Liberia and Sierra Leone, although authorities are already taking action.”