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Rare But Deadly Marburg Virus Outbreak Kills Three In Africa

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Three patients in Kenya and Uganda have died from the Marburg virus, an extremely rare and fatal disease, the World Health Organization reports.

The Marburg virus is related to the more well-known and also deadly Ebola virus, the WHO says. Both viruses are members of the filovirus family and cause high mortality rates. The fatality toll for the Marburg virus can reach as high as 88%, Live Science reports.

This specific virus is transmitted to people from a fruit bat called Rousettus aegyptiacus, also known as the Egyptian fruit bat. Once a human has been infected, the virus can easily spread to other people through direct contact with bodily fluids, or by touching surfaces and objects that have been contaminated with such bodily fluids.

The incubation period for the Marburg virus can range from two to 21 days, the WHO says. When symptoms commence, they do so abruptly, and include muscle pain, nausea, vomiting, severe diarrhea and stomach aches. According to the WHO, patients at the first phase of infection look “ghost-like,” with haggard features, deep-set eyes, and extreme lethargy.

Similar to Ebola, the Marburg virus causes severe hemorrhagic fever, which means a high fever and profuse bleeding due to a disruption in the body’s blood vessels.

The fever sets in around five to seven days after initial symptoms present. Blood may appear in vomit, feces, genitals, nose and gums. Even injection sites bleed, which the WHO says can be “particularly troublesome.”

In addition, the Marburg virus can cause problems with the central nervous systems, resulting in confusion, aggression and irritability. Death usually occurs eight to nine days after symptoms show, generally because of blood loss and shock.

The current outbreak was declared on October 19, with all three patients coming from the Kween District in Eastern Uganda. One of them traveled to Kenya. Since only three people have been confirmed as infected and all have died, the Marburg virus has a fatality rate of 100% so far.

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