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What is the Marburg virus?

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The corona pandemic is still dominating world events and right now another pandemic threatens to break out in West Africa. The Marburg virus could whip through Africa similar to Ebola because it has an extremely high mortality. So what is the Marburg virus?

In Guinea, it is known that a man died of the Marburg virus. Researchers and politicians immediately sounded the alarm. They fear a crisis similar to the 2014 Ebola epidemic, because the pathogen is extremely dangerous and extremely contagious.

Marburg virus

What is the Marburg virus?

The Marburg virus is a thread-like virus. Although the virus has been known since 1967, shockingly little is still known about it. It remains unknown where it actually occurs and which living things contain it.

Science suspects that the transmission to humans mostly happens through the breed of the Egyptian bat. Both the virus itself and the associated antibodies could be detected in her blood.

The virus originated in Africa. There have been proven cases on the continent in Kenya, Angola, Uganda, Guinea and the Congo. But that doesn’t mean it couldn’t be much more widespread. The large distances between the states mentioned suggest this. Kenya and Guinea are separated by over 5000 kilometers, which corresponds to the distance between Germany and Pakistan.

How do you get infected?

Once the virus has broken out, it can spread rapidly because the possibilities of infection are diverse.

First of all, the infection occurs through body fluids, such as blood, spit or semen. The pathogen remains contagious for four to five days even in clotted blood. It can occur and be transmitted in semen MONTHS after infection.

Second, infection occurs through smear infection, i.e. by touching an object or living being. It is therefore sufficient if two people use the same toilet, touch the same door handle or shake hands.

What are the symptoms?

It is a so-called hemorrhagic (bloody) fever. The course of the disease begins with a very high fever of over 40 degrees. This is followed by nausea, vomiting and diarrhea.

In the second week after the onset of the disease, the hemorrhagic symptoms appear. This means that those affected were bleeding from body orifices and heavily after needle pricks, and there was also internal bleeding.

Marburg virus

Do you die from it?

Yes, you can die Marburg virus. The mortality (probability of dying from an illness) is at least 23 percent. This means that one in four does not survive an infection.

In the largest outbreak to date in Angola in 2004, the death rate was as high as 88 percent. Of the 388 known infected people, 324 died, most of them children under the age of five.

Here, however, there were aggravating circumstances. The population refused to isolate the infected. In addition, large funerals were held, at which, according to Angolan tradition, both the dead are hugged and the guests give each other comfort in hugs. 

The corpse remains infectious for about five more days, which is why the funerals were most likely so-called spreader events.

Are there any drugs against the Marburg virus?

Yes and no, there is a drug, but it has never been administered to humans.

In 2015, an American working group presented a drug called AVI-7288. In the test with primates, all animals survived the infection.

The results give hope, especially because test results in primates can be transferred comparatively well to humans.

Marburg virus

Is there a vaccination against the virus?

Yes and no, the first successful research has been carried out, but not yet one that saves lives.

In April 2006, researchers from the USA and Canada published their research results. The vaccine developed proved to be generally effective. Nonetheless, the vaccinated monkeys died – just not after 12, but “only” after 80 days.

Has that to do with Corona?

The Marburg virus has little to do with the corona virus. The pathogens come from different families, cause different symptoms and have no visual resemblance.

What they do not share, however, is that their origin probably comes from the animal kingdom. In both cases, research taps on the bat species. In the case of the corona virus, it is suspected that the virus originates from bats, in the case of the Marburg virus from flying foxes.

In addition, both viruses spread both directly via body fluids and indirectly via smear infection.

Can the Marburg virus also occur in Germany?

Marburg virus
Marburg, Hesse

Of course, the virus can appear here. In fact, it was even named after a German city because the first recorded cases occurred in tranquil Marburg in Hesse.

In 1967, several laboratory workers were most likely infected with test monkeys from Uganda.

There are currently no cases in this country. It also seems relatively unlikely that cases will occur in Germany, as Egyptian bats are neither native to Europe, nor is Guinea a popular travel destination.


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