Concerted efforts are underway by local health authorities and World Health Organization experts to prevent the spread of the deadly Marburg disease within Guinea and across borders.
Health workers are in a good position to contain Marburg disease before it gets out of control and infects and kills many people. The World Health Organization says no further cases of Marburg have been identified since the index case was confirmed August 9 in Guinea’s southern Gueckedou prefecture.
The WHO reports the infected patient has died and 150 people who came in contact with him have been identified.
WHO spokeswoman Fadela Chaib tells VOA that 10 WHO experts are on the ground supporting the government’s efforts to step up the emergency response. She says teams are tracing all those who encountered the patient.
She says the incubation period for Marburg is two to 21 days, the same as that for Ebola.
“Although Marburg and Ebola are both members of the same family, they are caused by different viruses. The two diseases are clinically similar," said Chaib. "It is only by lab testing that we can differentiate them. But they have the same clinical feature. The same symptoms.”
Both Marburg and Ebola are highly infectious diseases that cause hemorrhagic fever. They have a fatality rate that can vary from 24 to 90 percent. Ebola now has a vaccine, but Marburg has no cure and no vaccine.
The first case of the disease was identified in 1967 in a man from Marburg, Germany. He had contracted the disease while working in Uganda.
Previous outbreaks and sporadic cases have been reported in Angola, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Kenya, South Africa, and Uganda.
The current outbreak in Guinea is the first in West Africa. The virus was detected less than two months after Guinea declared an end to an Ebola outbreak that erupted earlier this year.
Chaib says it is important to quickly stop the virus in its tracks. So, she says, cross-border surveillance is being enhanced with neighboring Sierra Leone and Liberia to quickly detect any cases of Marburg.
“For now, 200 people were screened for the disease in the three countries, in the three borders. And no one shows symptoms for the disease," she said.
According to the WHO, Marburg often starts abruptly with a high fever and severe headache, then progresses to severe bleeding from multiple areas.
The disease is transmitted to people from fruit bats and spreads among humans through direct contact with the bodily fluids of infected people, surfaces, and materials.
Chaib says investigations are ongoing to determine the source of the virus in Guinea. She says the man who got sick and died is known to have been in a forested area where he most likely became infected.