First Child Death From Marburg Virus In Ghana, Brings Outbreak Death Toll To 3

Ghana is having its first ever Marburg virus outbreak with four cases being reported so far. … [+] Pictured here are Marburg virus particles (blue) attached to the surface of infected cells. (Photo by: IMAGE POINT FR/NIH/NIAID/BSIP/Universal Images Group via Getty Images)

BSIP/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

Ghana has just had four firsts when it comes to Marburg virus disease (MVD) with none of them being good firsts. The first first came in late June when the country had its first ever reported case of MVD. That was soon followed by Ghana’s first ever reported death from the viral illness along with its first ever outbreak of MVD. And now Ghana has had its first ever child dying from MVD. That’s clearly four firsts too many.

The child was one year and two months of age and unfortunately died three days after being admitted to the hospital on July 17, according to the following announcement from the Ghana Health Service:

The child’s death brought the current death toll from the MVD outbreak in Ghana to three, including the child, the child’s father who was 26 years old, and another unrelated man who was 51 years old. There’s been a fourth case of MVD, a 24-year-old woman who was the wife of the 26-year-old man and mother of child who died from MVD. So three of the four cases have been in the same household. The July 28 press release from the Ghana Health Service indicated that the woman has “since Tuesday 26th July 2022 been in a government-designated isolation center” and was “alive and well.”

You may have heard some describing the Marburg virus is similar to the Ebola virus. Of course, whenever anyone describes something as being similar to the Ebola virus, it is best to put that thing down and step backwards as quickly as possible. Both viruses belong to the Filoviridae family. Both can lead to similar symptoms. Both can be transmitted via body fluids such as blood or secretions, which is yet another reason why it’s a bad idea to play with body fluids. Both can be passed along through objects touched by or contaminated with body fluids from an infected person such as bed sheets, clothing, and One Direction plush toys. That’s why in other countries health care workers caring for those with either virus and those handling burial ceremonies for who died from either virus have in turn become infected.

The Marburg and Ebola viruses are also similar in that they can both be very deadly, as opposed to sort of or kind of deadly. MVD can have a case-fatality rate of up to 88%, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). Good and prompt medical care can lower the case-fatality rate down to 24%, which is lower but still not at “got the Marburg virus and my day’s been great” level.

Now, you may be wondering why the virus is named after Marburg, Germany. Well that was one of three places where the virus was first detected in 1967 with the other two being Frankfurt, Germany, and Belgrade, Serbi. So yes, in theory, the Marburg virus could have possibly been named the Frankfurter virus instead, had history been a little different. The outbreaks back then were linked to African green monkeys (Cercopithecus aethiops) that had been imported from Uganda for laboratory work. Since then there have been reported cases in Angola, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Kenya, South Africa (in someone who had recently traveled to Zimbabwe), and Uganda. The recent cases in Ghana are only the second time MVD has been reported in any countries in West Africa. The first time was in Guinea in August 2021 when one MVD case was reported.

The virus can enter your body through breaks in your skin or mucous membranes such as via your eyes, nose, or mouth. This typically occurs through prolonged close contact rather than something quick like a chest bump. The breaks in your skin don’t have to be obvious ones. Your skin is not like toilet bowl porcelain and instead has many microscopic breaks that can allow the Marburg virus to enter.

Once the virus gets into your body, it typically will take two to 21 days for symptoms to emerge abruptly. Initial symptoms usually can include some combination of a high fever, severe headache, muscle aches, and severe fatigue. After a few days, you may begin to have gastrointestinal symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, and severe watery diarrhea, which can continue for a week. At this point, you may have developed what’s been described as a “ghost-like” face with deep-set eyes and an expressionless face.

About a week into the symptoms, you may enter into the severe hemorrhagic phase of the illness. Note that if anyone describes you as hemorrhagic, it may be time to see a doctor since hemorrhagic means bleeding. The hemorrhaging in MVD can consist of bleeding in multiple areas such as your nose, gums, gastrointestinal tract, and vagina. Severe bleeding would be considered the severe phase of MVD. Chances are you won’t follow the words “severe bleeding” by saying the word “yay.” Things can get even worse should your central nervous system be involved as well, leading to confusion, irritability, and aggression. If you happen to have balls, meaning literally and not figuratively, another symptom may be inflammation of one or more of your testicles. All of this bleeding can lead to lots of blood loss and in turn shock. Death can come rather quickly, just eight to nine days after you first develop any symptoms.

When you get MVD, doctors can’t do too much beyond keeping you well hydrated and treating specific symptoms. While this may improve your chances of survival, there are no vaccines or antivirals on the market that have proven effective against the Marburg virus. Researchers have been studying the use of various monoclonal antibodies and antivirals such as Remdesivir and Favipiravir.

Besides close contact with an infected human, you can also catch the Marburg virus from infected … [+] Rousettus aegyptiacus bats. Such bats tend to inhabit mines and caves. You don’t have to actually directly touch bats to get infected. The virus can spread via infected bat feces or aerosols. (Photo by Bonnie Jo Mount/The Washington Post via Getty Images)

The Washington Post via Getty Images

Besides close contact with an infected human, you can also catch the Marburg virus from infected Rousettus aegyptiacus bats. Such bats tend to inhabit mines and caves. You don’t have to actually directly touch bats to get infected. The virus can spread via infected bat feces or aerosols. So if you are interacting with Rousettus aegyptiacus bat, such as having dinner or playing craps with one, make sure that you have adequate protection such as mask and gloves.

The Marburg virus is not the same as the Covid-19 coronavirus and not nearly as contagious. It’s also not the same as the monkeypox virus. Comparing these three viruses would be like comparing a broom, a hot dog, and a cactus plant. That hasn’t prevented some people (or bots) on social media from lumping them together, even with other problems such as inflation, and surprise, surprise, spreading misinformation about the virus. Relying on social media for health information can be like relaying on bathroom stall graffiti for all your major life decisions. While it will be important for public authorities to perform contact tracing, quarantine anyone who may have had close contact with infected individuals, isolate anyone who is infected, and try to contain the Marburg virus outbreak as soon as possible, there no reason to panic and start hoarding toilet paper right now.

Life Sciences, Forbes – Healthcare

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