Virus alert

Reem Leila , Tuesday 21 Feb 2023

Egyptian health authorities are taking all necessary precautions against the new, deadly Marburg virus.

Virus alert
Virus alert


The Ministry of Health and Population has issued a detailed booklet regarding the Marburg virus disease (MVD) which first appeared in Equatorial Guinea.

Around 90 per cent of patients infected with MVD do not survive.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has classified the virus among the highly contagious groups. The ministry distributed the booklet to the country’s hospitals as part of its early plan to deal with any unusual health incidences and follow up the epidemiological situation of diseases all over the world.

The virus, which is related to the Ebola family, has not been detected in Egypt, the spokesman of the Ministry of Health and Population Hossam Abdel-Ghaffar confirmed to Al-Ahram Weekly.

“The virus is transmissible via human to human through direct contact with the blood or secretions of an infected person, or any other fluids secreted by the body through wounds or mucous membranes, as well as surfaces or materials such as bed linen and clothing contaminated with these fluids,” Abdel-Ghaffar said.

The virus can also be transmitted, according to Abdel-Ghaffar, by a species of fruit bat as well as between individuals through unsafe sex and broken skin, he added.

Abdel-Ghaffar noted that the disease’s incubation period ranges from two to 21 days, while the period of infection lingers after the onset of symptoms for a period of seven weeks after recovery.

The virus’ symptoms start with sudden high temperature, severe headache and muscle pain, followed by severe watery diarrhoea, abdominal pain, nausea, and vomiting on the third day. A non-itchy rash is observed in most patients between two to seven days with the onset of symptoms. Many patients suffer severe haemorrhagic symptoms between the fifth and seventh days, said Abdel-Ghaffar, adding that fatalities are characterised by some form of haemorrhage. Death occurs usually eight to nine days after onset, preceded by severe blood loss and shock, he added.

Currently there are no approved antiviral therapies for treating the virus or vaccines, Amr Qandil, assistant to the minister of health and population for preventive medicine, noted.

However, Qandil assured that the virus is unlikely to be present in Egypt. “There is no imminent danger at present,” he stressed, pointing out that there have been several outbreaks during the past 40 years of the virus but were limited because its spread can be easily controlled. MVD patients must be strictly and immediately isolated in hospital away from crowded places, stressed Qandil.

Current medical treatment depends on supportive care, whether by providing patients with oral or intravenous fluids, or treating the symptoms of the disease. “Patients suffering from MVD could be provided with potential treatments including blood derivatives, immunotherapy, and pharmacological therapies,” Qandil said.

Equatorial Guinea, which first reported MVD, announced that the virus had killed at least nine people with 252 confirmed cases.

Cameroon health authorities also detected two suspected cases in Olamze, a commune on the border with Equatorial Guinea.

* A version of this article appears in print in the 23 February, 2023 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly

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