West African authorities have confirmed the region’s first known case of Marburg virus after at least one person died in Guinea from hemorrhagic fever, the World Health Organization said Monday.
Health officials said they were trying to track down anyone who might have been in contact with the patient who had sought medical treatment in Gikedou, southern Guinea.
The case was reported in the same part of Guinea, where the 2014-2016 Ebola epidemic began and eventually killed at least 11,325 people. A much smaller outbreak of Ebola earlier this year also hit the same region near Guinea’s borders with Sierra Leone and Liberia, killing 12 people.
Marburg virus is in the same family as Ebola and has previously spread elsewhere across Africa in Angola, Congo, Kenya, South Africa, and Uganda.
The new case was confirmed in West Africa by a laboratory in Guinea and again by the Pasteur Institute in neighboring Senegal, according to the World Health Organization.
“The potential for a large-scale outbreak of Marburg virus means we need to stop it in its tracks,” said Dr. Matshidiso Moeti, WHO Regional Director for Africa. “We are working with health authorities to implement a rapid response that builds on the experience and expertise of former Guinea in Ebola management, which is transmitted in a similar manner.
An outbreak of the Marburg virus begins when an infected animal, such as a monkey or fruit bat, transmits the virus to humans. Then the virus is transmitted from one person to another through contact with the body fluids of an infected person.
Marburg symptoms include a high fever and muscle aches, and some patients later bleed through body openings such as the eyes and ears. There is no approved drug or vaccine for Marburg, but rehydration and other supportive care can improve a patient’s chances of survival.
Death rates from the disease were as high as 88 percent in previous outbreaks, but the World Health Organization said that the number varies, depending on the strain and how cases are dealt with.