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Health authorities have confirmed new cases of the deadly Marburg virus in parts of Africa. News that the virus has reached Equatorial Guinea’s commercial capital with a population of around 200,000 is concerning, according to the experts. Sudden myalgia could be a warning sign, alerting to the infection.

New cases

Equatorial Guinea has confirmed 13 cases of Marburg virus, health officials announced on Wednesday 29 March.

This comes after the head of the World Health Organisation (WHO) urged the Central African country’s government to report new cases officially.

The country confirmed its first-ever outbreak of the disease in February, according to WHO.

The health organisation had reported nine laboratory-confirmed cases and put the total number of deaths and probable cases at 20 each.

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There is also an outbreak of Marburg virus in Tanzania, where eight cases including five deaths have been reported in the northwest Kagera region.

What is Marburg virus?

Along with Ebola virus, Marburg virus belongs to a family of viruses that can cause a severe and often fatal haemorrhagic fever.

Haemorrhagic fevers can trigger severe, life-threatening illness and damage the walls of tiny blood vessels, making them leak, according to the Mayo Clinic.

The incubation period of Marburg virus is typically three to 10 days, with some reports indicating longer periods of up to four weeks.

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What are the symptoms?

After the incubation period, the symptom onset is usually sudden and can include myalgia.

Myalgia, or muscle pain, describes acute or short-term sore muscles that can feel like you had exercised the previous day.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), other sudden signs that can appear include fever, chills, and headache.

The CDC adds: “Around the fifth day after the onset of symptoms, a maculopapular rash, most prominent on the trunk (chest, back, stomach), may occur. 

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“Nausea, vomiting, chest pain, a sore throat, abdominal pain, and diarrhoea may appear. 

“Symptoms become increasingly severe and can include jaundice, inflammation of the pancreas, severe weight loss, delirium, shock, liver failure, massive haemorrhaging, and multi-organ dysfunction.”

In order to receive a diagnosis of the virus, you need laboratory testing.

In the UK, the UK Health Security Agency’s Rare and Imported Pathogens Laboratory (RIPL) has specialised laboratory facilities to provide a definitive diagnosis.

How does it spread?

It is generally accepted that Marburg virus is an animal-borne virus, with fruit bats, known as Rousettus aegyptii, being considered to be the natural host.

Therefore, natural infection is most likely associated with contact with these bat colonies.

Subsequent transmission of virus from person to person then requires close contact with an infected patient. 

Contact with blood or other bodily fluids, such as faeces, vomit, urine, saliva, respiratory secretions, and semen, transmit the virus.

According to the UK Health Security Agency, measures for prevention focus on avoiding contact with infected bodily fluids.

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