WHO confirms first-ever case of ‘highly infectious’ Marburg virus disease in West Africa

WHO confirms first-ever case of ‘highly infectious’ Marburg virus disease in West Africa
August 09
22:37 2021

The World Health Organisation (WHO) says health authorities in Guinea have recorded a confirmed case of Marburg virus disease in the southern Gueckedou prefecture.

This is the first time the Marburg virus disease — described as “highly infectious” and which results in haemorrhagic fever similar to Ebola — has been identified in West Africa.

According to a statement by WHO on Monday, the development comes less than two months after Guinea declared an end to an Ebola outbreak.

The infected patient, now deceased, is said to have had his samples taken and tested at a field laboratory in Gueckedou, which turned out positive for the virus.


Further analysis by the Institut Pasteur in Senegal, as well as Guinea’s haemorrhagic fever laboratory, reportedly confirmed the result.

WHO noted that the patient had sought treatment at a local clinic in Koundou area of Gueckedou, where a medical investigation team was dispatched to probe his worsening symptoms.

Gueckedou is also the same region where cases of the 2021 Ebola outbreak in Guinea, as well as the 2014 to 2016 West African Ebola epidemic, were initially detected.



According to WHO, Marburg virus is transmitted to people from fruit bats, and it spreads among humans through direct contact with the bodily fluids of infected people, surfaces and materials.

Illness begins with high fever, severe headache and general discomfort.

Also, infected patients develop severe haemorrhagic signs within seven days, while case fatality rates have varied from 24 percent to 88 percent in past outbreaks, depending on virus strain and case management.



According to WHO, efforts are underway to find people who may have been in contact with the deceased patient.

Also, public education and community mobilisation to raise awareness and galvanise support are being launched in the country to help curb widespread infection.

Matshidiso Moeti, WHO’s regional director for Africa, commended Guinea’s health workers for their “alertness and quick investigative action”.


“The potential for the Marburg virus to spread far and wide means we need to stop it in its tracks,” she said.

“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.


“An initial team of 10 WHO experts, including epidemiologists and socio-anthropologists, is on the ground helping to investigate the case and supporting the national health authorities to swiftly step up emergency response, including risk assessment, disease surveillance, community mobilisation, testing, clinical care, infection prevention as well as logistical support.

“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.


“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.


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