How deadly is Marburg?
Marburg is one of the deadliest pathogens known to man.
The WHO says it has a case-fatality ratio (CFR) of up to 90 percent.
But experts estimate it’s probably closer to 50 percent, similar to its cousin Ebola — another member of the filoviridae family.
That means that of every 100 people confirmed to be infected with Marburg, half are expected to die.
However, scientists don’t know the infection-death rate, which measures everyone who gets infected — not just those who test positive.
By comparison, Covid had a CFR of about three percent when it hit the scene.
What are the telltale symptoms?
Symptoms come on abruptly and include severe headache, fever, diarrhea, stomach pain and vomiting. They are getting more and more serious.
In the early stages of MVD – the disease it causes – it is very difficult to distinguish from other tropical diseases, such as Ebola and malaria.
Infected patients become ‘ghostly’ and often develop deep-set eyes and expressionless faces.
This is usually accompanied by bleeding from multiple orifices, including the nose, gums, eyes, and vagina.
Like Ebola, even dead bodies can spread the virus to people exposed to the fluids.
How does the virus spread?
Human infections usually begin in areas where humans have long-term exposure to mines or caves inhabited by infected fruit bat colonies.
Fruit bats naturally harbor the virus.
However, it can then spread between people, through direct contact with infected people’s bodily fluids, surfaces, and materials.
Contaminated clothing and bedding pose a risk, as do funeral ceremonies involving direct contact with the deceased.
In Equatorial Guinea, the virus was found in samples from deceased patients suffering from symptoms such as fever, fatigue and blood-stained vomit and diarrhoea.
Healthcare workers have often become infected while treating Marburg patients.
Gavi, an international organization that promotes access to vaccines, says people in Africa should avoid eating or handling bushmeat.
Is there a vaccine?
There are currently no vaccines approved to treat the virus.
The WHO called an emergency meeting on Monday about the rising cases and called for experts from around the world.
Members of the Marburg Virus Vaccine Consortium (MARVAC) said — speaking to WHO — that effective vaccines and therapies could take months to become available as manufacturers must collect materials and conduct trials.
Experts identified 28 experimental vaccine candidates that could be effective against the virus — most of which have been developed to fight Ebola.
Five were highlighted in particular as vaccines to be investigated.
Three vaccine developers — Janssen Pharmaceuticals, Public Health Vaccines and the Sabin Vaccine Institute — said they may be able to make doses available for testing during the current outbreak.
Janssen and Sabin’s vaccines have already passed phase one clinical trials. However, none of the vaccines are available in large quantities.
The Public Health Vaccines sting was also recently found to protect against the virus in monkeys, and the Food and Drug Administration has approved it for human testing.
How bad were previous Marburg clusters and where were they?
Before this outbreak, only 30 cases had been recorded worldwide between 2007 and 2022.
Angola, in Central Africa, faced its largest known outbreak in 2004. It had a 90 percent fatality rate, with 227 deaths among 252 infected people, according to the Angolan government.
Last September, Ghana declared the end of a Marburg outbreak that hit the country’s Ashanti, Savannah and western regions.
Could it reach Britain or the US?
Most Marburg outbreaks go away after infecting a few people.
For this reason, experts say the chances of it causing a pandemic are slim. Yet it is not impossible.
Professor Whitworth told MailOnline yesterday: ‘Outbreaks in Marburg are always concerning because of the high mortality rate and the potential for spread from person to person through close contact.’
The speed with which the outbreak in Equatorial Guinea was noticed by officials may have helped dampen the spread of the infection so far, he advised.
He said: “This outbreak has occurred in a remote forest area of Equatorial Guinea, which limits the chances of it spreading quickly or affecting many people.
“Moreover, it seems to have been noticed quickly, the number of suspected cases is small and the first investigated death occurred on January 7, so only about five weeks ago.”
But he added: “The outbreak has occurred close to the international borders with Cameroon and Gabon, so international coordination is required.
“So overall the risk to Equatorial Guinea and the region is moderate, and the risk of it spreading outside the region is very low.”