Sunday 22 October 2017

Outbreak of Marburg Virus thought to have killed at least two in Kween District, Uganda.

Two people have died and two more are sick in an of Marburg Virus, a form of hemorrhagic fever similar to Ebola, in the Kween District of eastern Uganda. The alarm was raised after a 50-year-old woman died in a health clinic on 11 October 2017, of a fever combined with extensive bleeding and diarrhoea. Blood samples collected from the patient were sent for testing, and were confirmed to contain the Marburg Virus on 17 October. An investigation found that the woman's brother had died of a similar fever three weeks earlier, in what is thought to be an almost certain second case of the disease, as the man is known to have been a hunter who operated in an area with caves home to Fruit Bats of the genus Rousettus, the natural hosts of the Virus. 

Artificially coloured SEM image of the Marburg Virus. BSIP/UIG/Getty Images.

Marburg Virus is a form of Filovirus, the group of Bat-infecting RNA Viruses that also includes Ebola. It takes its name from the German city of Marburg, where the first outbreak was recorded in 1967, among workers that had been exposed to infected Monkey tissue, seven of whom died. Despite this European discovery, the Virus is now recognised as being endemic to tropical Africa, where it occasionally spreads from its usual Bat hosts to Human or other Primate hosts, resulting in short-lived but extremely lethal outbreaks.

Zoonotic diseases (diseases in which the pathogen usually infects an animal host, but which occasionally spreads to Humans) can be particularly dangerous, as Humans are not part of their natural life-cycle, with the effect that they are not under evolutionary pressure to keep Human hosts alive in order to perpetuate themselves. Such diseases typically have short duration and a high fatality rate, though epidemics usually burn out quickly.

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