6 things you should know about the Marburg virus, the rare and deadly disease spreading in Uganda
In recent world health news, three people in Uganda have died from the Marburg virus, a rare infectious disease in the same family as the Ebola virus. According to the World Health Organization, emergency response workers are on the scene in Uganda where the infections began, trying desperately to prevent it from spreading to neighboring Kenya.
Even though you’re likely far away from the current outbreak site, you probably have questions about the nature of the disease and how likely it is to spread. And that’s normal — this is a scary situation, and it’s always better to be armed with information.
Here are six things to know about the Marburg virus.
1The virus got its name from an outbreak in Marburg, Germany, in 1967.
The outbreak was also in Frankfurt and Belgrade. Since then, there have been few reported cases. A confirmed case of Marburg did occur in Uganda in 2014, where a healthcare worker who contracted the disease died shortly after.
2The Marburg virus is transmitted through bodily fluids.
The WHO reports that fruit bats are considered to be the natural hosts of the virus, and the specific type of bat is called Rousettus aegyptiacus. Once a human becomes exposed to an infected bat, the virus can then be transmitted to other humans via bodily fluids like blood and saliva, or through a contaminated surface like bedding and clothing.
3The symptoms are similar to the Ebola virus.
According to Time Health, symptoms start to appear between 2-21 days after transmission, and include high fever, muscle aches and pains, headaches, sometimes an itchy rash, diarrhea, hemorrhaging and vomiting. The WHO describes a very grim scenario: “Fresh blood in vomitus and faeces is often accompanied by bleeding from the nose, gums, and vagina.” The central nervous system is also affected, which leads to patients becoming confused, aggressive and irritable.”
4The three people who died were from the same family.
They were from the Kween district in Uganda, and included two brothers and a sister. CNN reports that one of the brothers was a game hunter, and lived near a cave inhabited by Rousettus bats.
5There is currently no treatment for the Marburg virus
The WHO notes that treatment plans are being evaluated, but until then, patients can only have their individual symptoms treated and are given intravenous fluids for rehydration.
6The fatality rate of Marburg is extremely high
It ranges from 24% to 90%. Time Health notes that everyone who has been confirmed with Marburg has died so far. The good news is that patients are now being monitored for exposure, and those presenting with symptoms are isolated if their cases are deemed an extreme threat.
As terrifying as this is, it’s important to stay calm and remember that healthcare professionals are working around the clock to monitor the situation and figure out a solution. Our hearts go out to the family who lost their loved ones in Uganda, and we hope the outbreak is contained as soon as possible.