Aug. 13, 2021 — A virus known as “Ebola’s deadly cousin” has been spotted for the first time in West Africa.
The Marburg virus, which causes a severe disease that is in the same virus family that causes Ebola, has been identified in southwest Guinea near the borders of Sierra Leone and Liberia, according to the World Health Organization.
The region also faced a deadly Ebola outbreak this year that ended in June, according to the WHO statement.
It can be hard to tell the difference between Marburg and other tropical diseases, like malaria, because symptoms are similar, according to the statement.
Death rates range between 24% and 88%, depending on things like the type of care an infected person receives, the WHO says.
The Ministry of Health, CDC, WHO, and others are working to prevent further spread of the virus through efforts like contact tracing and watching for cases in health care facilities and communities.
Other disease outbreaks have caused problems in Guinea due to the country’s shaky health care system.
But the WHO said experience in handling other mass outbreaks, including COVID-19, helped in the quick response to control the spread of the Marburg virus.
“We applaud the alertness and the quick investigative action by Guinea’s health workers. The potential for the Marburg virus to spread far and wide means we need to stop it in its tracks,” tweeted Matshidiso Moeti, MD, regional director for Africa at the World Health Organization.
The WHO calls the disease “epidemic-prone,” meaning that it can spread easily between people if not prevented. There have been previous Marburg outbreaks in other parts of Africa, including Angola, Uganda, and South Africa.
But, the WHO says there is a low chance of global spread of Marburg. Health officials in neighboring countries are actively looking for cases.