Just a few weeks after Uganda was declared free of Ebola, a second hemorrhagic fever strikes.
On Friday, Oct. 19, the Uganda Ministry of Health warned the public that Marburg virus has been confirmed in the Kitumba sub-county of the Kabale District.
Uganda’s New Vision reports rumors of a strange illness in Kitumba in early October. Today, the Uganda Virus Research Institute confirmed three positive samples of Marburg virus.
Marburg, a member of the filovirus family, is a severe hemorrhagic fever. The virus was first discovered in 1967, when outbreaks occurred in Germany and former Yugoslavia (now Serbia) in scientists and others who had handled monkeys imported from Africa. There were 31 cases and seven deaths.
Studies suggest that the African fruit bat, or Rousettus aegyptiacus, is a reservoir for the virus. These bats are widespread across Africa. So far, confirmed cases of Marburg have occurred in Zimbabwe, Uganda, Angola, Kenya and the Democratic Republic of Congo. Outside of the first recorded outbreak, two cases outside of Africa were documented, one in the Netherlands and the other in the United States, but both cases were travelers that had been exposed to fruit bats in Uganda.
The CDC suggests that transmission occurs when in contact with contaminated tissues or body fluids.
Symptoms of infection with Marburg virus typically manifest five to ten days after infection and include fever and chills, and progress to rash, vomiting, nausea, severe weight loss, severe hemorrhaging, and multi-organ dysfunction. Because many of these symptoms are non-specific, it is sometimes difficult to diagnose Marburg without testing samples in a lab. According to the WHO, case-fatality rates for Marburg have varied between 25 percent and 80 percent.
There is no vaccine or specific treatment for this disease. Both the CDC and the WHO recommend supportive hospital therapy for Marburg cases, including balancing electrolytes, replacing fluids, and replacing lost blood.
The Disease Daily will continue to update on this outbreak as events unfold.