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Researchers detect Marburg virus in Sierra Leone

by Frañkvin Bob McEwen
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A deadly virus called Marburg has been detected for the first time in Sierra Leone. A team of researchers confirmed the presence of the virus in 11 Egyptian rousette fruit bats, the bats were found in 3 different health districts in Sierra Leone leading to suspicion that the findings were not an isolated one. These findings were reported in the journal Nature Communications.

This photo shows a community meeting in Kakoya village, northern Sierra Leone. Image Credit: Brian Bird / UC Davis One Health Institute

Marburg virus is similar to Ebola, it is a form of viral hemorrhagic fever. The virus is considered to be extremely dangerous and is rated as a Risk Group 4 Pathogen by the World Health Organization (WHO) which means it requires a level 4 biosafety level 4-equivalent containment. It is ranked as Category A Priority Pathogen in the United States. However, there have not been any reported cases of Marburg infection in Sierra Leone.

The virus can be transmitted by exposure to one species of fruit bats or it can be transmitted between people via body fluids or through unprotected sex. 

The virus was first discovered in 1967, in Marburg and Frankfurt, Germany after outbreaks of hemorrhagic fever occurred simultaneously in both locations. 31 people were infected with 7 deaths reported later. It has also been detected in South Africa, Kenya, the Soviet Union, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Angola, Uganda, Netherlands, and the United States.

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