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Highly infectious Marburg virus, relative of Ebola, found in West Africa for 1st time

By Zarrin Ahmed
Highly infectious Marburg virus, relative of Ebola, found in West Africa for 1st time
"The potential for the Marburg virus to spread far and wide means we need to stop it in its tracks," a World Health Organization official said. Photo courtesy World Health Organization Africa

Aug. 10 (UPI) -- The World Health Organization says at least one person in Guinea has died from the Marburg virus, a severe illness that causes hemorrhagic fever that's never been found in western Africa until now.

The United Nations health organization confirmed the death on Monday and said it's the first time the virus has been found in Guinea, a nation on Africa's western coast that borders Sierra Leone, Mali, Liberia and the Ivory Coast.

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The Marburg virus is highly infectious and comes from the same virus family that causes Ebola.

Officials say that samples taken from the dead patient were tested in a field laboratory in Gueckedou and confirmed by the Institut Pasteur in Senegal.

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The Marburg virus is transmitted to humans from fruit bats and can spread among humans through transmission of bodily fluids.

The last outbreak of the virus was seen in Angola in 2005.

Efforts to contact trace are underway and nearly 150 people have been identified as "at risk."

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A team of 10 WHO personnel including epidemiologists and socio-anthropologists are on the ground in Guinea to investigate, and officials say cross-border surveillance is being enhanced.

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There are no approved vaccines for the Marburg virus, though a range of potential treatments includes blood products, immune therapies and drug therapies.

Less than two months ago, the WHO declared that an Ebola outbreak in Guinea was over.

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"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," World Health Organization Africa Director Dr. Matshidiso Moeti said in a statement.

"The potential for the Marburg virus to spread far and wide means we need to stop it in its tracks."

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