Explainer: What is the Ebola-like Marburg virus?

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The Marburg virus has surfaced this week, with Cameroon detecting two suspected cases on Tuesday after Equatorial Guinea officially declared its first outbreak on Monday, according to Reuters.

Cameroon restricted movement along the border with Equatorial Guinea to avoid contagion.

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Forty-two people who came into contact with the two cases in Cameroon have been identified and contact tracing was ongoing, public health delegate for the region, Robert Mathurin Bidjang, said on Tuesday.

The small Central African country has so far reported nine deaths as well as 16 suspected cases of Marburg virus, with symptoms including fever, fatigue and blood-stained vomit and diarrhea, according to the WHO.

Equatorial Guinea quarantined more than 200 people and restricted movement last week in its Kie-Ntem province, where the hemorrhagic fever was first detected.

The news led the World Health Organization (WHO) to announce it is increasing its epidemiological surveillance in Equatorial Guinea.

But what exactly is the Marburg virus, is it fatal and can it be treated?

Here are some key facts about the virus, according to the WHO:

Marburg virus disease (MVD), formerly known as Marburg hemorrhagic fever, is a severe, often fatal illness in humans.

In fatal cases, death occurs most often between 8 and 9 days after symptom onset, usually preceded by severe blood loss and shock.

The illness caused by the virus starts suddenly with a high fever and a severe headache. Muscle aches and pains are a common feature. Severe watery diarrhea, abdominal pain and cramping, nausea and vomiting can begin on the third day.

The average fatality rate is around 50 percent. Case fatality rates have varied from 24 percent to 88 percent in past outbreaks depending on the virus strain and case management.

As of yet, there are no licensed treatments for the Marburg virus but a range of blood products, immune therapies and drug therapies are currently under development.

Rousettus aegyptiacus, fruit bats of the Pteropodidae family, are considered to be natural hosts of Marburg virus.

The virus is transmitted to people from fruit bats and spreads among humans through direct contact with infected individuals.

Marburg and Ebola viruses are both members of the Filoviridae family (filovirus).

History of the virus

Marburg virus disease was initially detected in 1967 after outbreaks in Marburg and Frankfurt in Germany, as well as in Belgrade and Serbia.

At the time, the virus outbreak was associated with laboratory work using African green monkeys (Cercopithecus aethiops) imported from Uganda.

Since its discovery, outbreaks have been reported in Angola, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Kenya, South Africa and Uganda, according to the WHO.

(With agencies)

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