ADDIS ABABA – Health authorities in Guinea on Monday confirmed a case of Marburg virus disease in the southern Gueckedou prefecture.
This is the first time Marburg, a highly infectious disease that causes haemorrhagic fever, has been identified in the country, and in West Africa, according to the World Health Organisation (WHO).
Marburg, which is in the same family as the virus that causes Ebola, was detected less than two months after Guinea declared an end to an Ebola outbreak that erupted earlier this year.
Samples taken from a now-deceased patient and tested by Guinea’s national haemorrhagic fever laboratory turned out positive for the Marburg virus. Further analysis by the Institut Pasteur in Senegal confirmed the result.
The patient had sought treatment at a local clinic in the Koundou area of Gueckedou, where a medical investigation team had been dispatched to probe his worsening symptoms.
WHO Regional Director for Africa, Dr Matshidiso Moeti, applauded 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,” said Dr Moeti.
The WHO has already sent an initial 10 team experts to help Guinea to investigate the case and support Guinea to swiftly step up emergency response, including risk assessment, disease surveillance, testing and clinical care, among others.
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.
Efforts are underway to find the people who may have been in contact with the patient.
Cross-border surveillance is also being enhanced to quickly detect any cases, with neighbouring countries on alert. The Ebola control systems in place in Guinea and in neighbouring countries are proving crucial to the emergency response to the Marburg virus.
Marburg is transmitted to people from fruit bats and spreads among humans through direct contact with the bodily fluids of infected people, surfaces and materials.
Illness begins abruptly, with high fever, severe headache and malaise. Many patients develop severe haemorrhagic signs within seven days. Case fatality rates have varied from 24% to 88% in past outbreaks depending on virus strain and case management.
Although there are no vaccines or antiviral treatments approved to treat the virus, supportive care – rehydration with oral or intravenous fluids – and treatment of specific symptoms, improves survival.
A range of potential treatments, including blood products, immune therapies and drug therapies, are being evaluated.
In Africa, previous outbreaks and sporadic cases have been reported in Angola, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Kenya, South Africa and Uganda.