- BBC News World
Another virus worries Africa.
Two people in Ghana have died and 98 others have been quarantined from the Marburg virus, raising fears of a massive outbreak of the highly infectious disease.
The infection causes fever, muscle aches, diarrhea, vomiting, and in many cases death from extreme blood loss.
We at BBC Mundo give you details about the disease and why it worries health authorities.
What is the Marburg virus?
An equally deadly cousin of the Ebola virus, according to the World Health Organization (WHO), Marburg virus was first identified after 31 people were infected and seven died in simultaneous outbreaks in 1967 in Marburg and Frankfurt, Germany, and Belgrade, Serbia.
The outbreak was attributed to monkeys imported from Uganda.
But the virus has since been linked to other animals.
And, in humans, it is spread mainly by people who have spent long periods in caves and mines populated by bats.
But in Europe only one person has died in the past 40 years, and another in the United States, after returning from cave expeditions in Uganda.
What were the main epidemics?
This is the first outbreak in Ghana, but several African countries have had cases, including:
- the Democratic Republic of Congo
A 2005 outbreak in Angola killed more than 300 people.
According to the WHO, in addition to the first known outbreak in Europe, the main outbreaks of the disease have been reported in Africa and have occurred:
- 2017, Uganda: three infections, three deaths
- 2012, Uganda: 15 sick, four dead
- 2005, Angola: 374 cases, 329 deaths
- 1998-2000, Congo: 154 cases, 128 deaths
- 1967, Germany: 29 cases, seven deaths
What are the symptoms?
The virus starts abruptly with:
This is often followed, three days later, by:
“The appearance of patients in this phase has been described as showing ‘ghostly’ features, sunken eyes, expressionless faces and extreme lethargy,” explains the WHO.
Many people continue to bleed from various parts of the body and die eight to nine days after first becoming ill from extreme blood loss and shock.
On average, the virus kills half of those infected, according to the WHO, but the most damaging strains have killed up to 88% of cases.
How does it spread?
The Egyptian fruit bat (Rousettus aegyptiacus) is one of the main agents of transmission of the virus.
African green monkeys and pigs can also wear it.
In humans, it spreads through bodily fluids and bedding contaminated with it.
And even if people recover, their blood or semen, for example, can infect other people for many months.
How can it be treated?
There is no vaccine or specific treatment for the virus.
But a range of blood products, drugs and immunotherapies are being developed, according to the WHO.
And doctors can ease symptoms by giving hospitalized patients plenty of fluids and replacing lost blood.
How can it be contained?
Africans should avoid eating or handling bushmeat, says Gavi, an international organization that promotes access to vaccines.
They should also avoid contact with pigs in areas with an outbreak, according to the WHO.
Men who have had the virus should use condoms for one year after symptoms appear or until your semen tests negative twice.
And those who bury people who have died from the virus should avoid touching the body.
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