The first case of the deadly Marburg virus has been found in West Africa, with experts threatening that it could “spread wide and far” and needs to be eradicated as soon as possible. The virus has sparked similar fears and chaos caused by the Ebola pandemic between 2013-2016 in West Africa. Dr Matshidiso Moeti, the WHO’s regional director for Africa, said: “The potential for the Marburg virus to spread far and wide means we need to stop it in its tracks.
“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.”
The WHO has confirmed that the new case was found in a man from Guinea, near the borders with Sierra Leone and Liberia, and raised fears that the virus could spread across the continent affecting the neighbouring countries first.
The patient first showed symptoms on July, 25 before he attended his local health clinic.
He died the next day, having been in close contact with four other people who are currently showing no symptoms.
Contact tracing is now ongoing at the community level along with active case searching in health facilities.
Guinea’s new case comes just two months after the country was declared free of Ebola following a brief flare-up earlier this year that killed 12 people.
Sporadic cases of the Marburg virus have been reported in South Africa, Angola, Kenya, Uganda, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
But this is the first time that the virus has been identified in West Africa.
The virus is from the same pathogen family as Ebola, but has no known treatments or vaccines.
The concern over the transmission of the virus in Guinea has led the WHO and other organisations such as the Red Cross to initiate measures to control the outbreak.
The WHO is also investigating the source of the infection following the man’s death.
The WHO said in a statement: “Marburg virus disease (MVD) is a highly virulent, epidemic-prone disease associated with high case fatality rates (CFR 24-90 percent).
“In the early course of the disease, clinical diagnosis of MVD is difficult to distinguish from other tropical febrile illnesses, because of the similarities in the clinical symptoms.”
Although PCR tests are capable of identifying the virus, it is incredibly hard to do so due to the virus’ similarities to Ebola.
The WHO also warned of Guinea’s fragile healthcare system despite it reacting quickly to the case.
Transmission of the virus is associated with direct contact with blood or other bodily fluids of an infected person.