A man in West Africa who recently tested positive for the Ebola-like Marburg virus has died prompting health officials into a mad rush to find the necessary means to stop the spread of the killer disease. The World Health Organization (WHO) announced that the man fell ill last month in Gueckedou, Guinea which is close to the borders of Liberia and Sierra Leone.

The unidentified man is the first known case of the Marburg virus disease (MVD) in Guinea and in West Africa although there have been previous outbreaks and sporadic cases reported in South Africa, Angola, Kenya, Uganda, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

The man initially complained of symptoms on July 25 and had gone for a consultation at the village health facility on Aug.1 complaining of fever, fatigue, abdominal pain, gingival hemorrhage and fatigue. These are the characteristics of hemorrhagic fever. The patient tested negative for malaria, but was given supportive care, parenteral antibiotics and rehydration. The man died the following day.

A team of WHO experts was deployed to conduct a post-mortem oral swab sample where a real-time PCR test was done confirming the sample was positive for MVD but negative for Ebola virus.

According to the WHO, the highly infectious MVD is said to have a fatality rate of about 88 percent. It comes from the same family as the virus that causes Ebola and may be difficult to distinguish from other tropical illnesses due to the similarities of symptoms.

MVD is believed to have originated in bats and transmitted by direct contact with the blood, bodily fluids and tissues of an infected person or animal host.

There are no specific therapeutic medicines approved for MVD treatment other than supportive care such as close monitoring of vital signs, fluid resuscitation, electrolyte monitoring, management of co-infections and organ dysfunction to optimize survival and recovery.

At this time, health authorities in Sierra Leone and Liberia have implemented contingency plans and have started public health measures at the points of entry with Guinea. Dr Matshidiso Moeti, the WHO's regional director for Africa 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.”

Local officials conducting contact tracing have identified 146 people who had been in contact with the patient before he died.

Marburg virus was first detected and identified in 1967 in Marburg and Frankfurt, Germany as well as in Belgrade, Serbia. The outbreak was linked to laboratories using African green monkeys imported from Uganda.

Ultrastructural morphology exhibited by the Marburg virus
This transmission electron micrograph (TEM) revealed some of the ultrastructural morphology exhibited by the Marburg virus, the cause of Marburg hemorrhagic fever. Marburg hemorrhagic fever is a rare, severe type of hemorrhagic fever which affects both humans and non-human primates. Caused by a genetically unique zoonotic (that is, animal-borne) RNA virus of the filovirus family, its recognition led to the creation of this virus family. The five species of Ebola virus are the only other known members of the filovirus family. Image courtesy CDC/Dr. Fredrick Murphy, Sylvia Whitfield, 1976. Photo by Smith Collection/Gado/Getty Images

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