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Ebola: Guinea Health Agency head declares 'pandemic' in February

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The World Health Organisation (WHO) has today confirmed the first death from the Marburg virus in West Africa. The Marburg virus is often associated with the Ebola virus that swept across Western Africa between 2013 – 2016. What are the differences between these two deadly viruses?

The Marburg virus is one of two viruses of the Filovirus family, the other being the Ebola virus.

Although they are in the same “family” they are caused by different viruses, but they are clinically similar and are characterised by similar symptoms.

What are the shared symptoms of the Marburg and Ebola virus?

  • Fever
  • Headaches
  • Fatigue
  • Muscle aches and pains
  • Severe watery diarrhoea
  • Abdominal pain and cramping
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Rash

For both the illness starts with flu-like symptoms these rapidly evolve to severe disease often haemorrhagic (bleeding) symptoms.

Both Marburg and the Ebola virus are hemorrhagic fevers, which means they cause bleeding from internal organs.

In the worst cases in the later stages of the illness, the patient may start to seep blood from orifices or injection sites.

What are the differences between Marburg and Ebola?


Marburg outbreaks have been less deadly than Ebola ones but it is not known why this is the case.


There are currently no vaccines for the Marburg virus but there are two vaccines licensed for use in several countries for the Ebola virus

The treatment for both is the same, atropine eye drops side effects rehydration with oral or intravenous fluids is key and doctors might provide medical that helps blood clots.


Outbreaks of the Marburg virus have, until this recent case in Guinea, been limited to eastern and southern Africa.

There have been 12 major outbreaks of the virus since 1967.

This latest death, recorded in Guinea, is concerning as it’s the first recorded one in West Africa.

Ebola on the other hand has mainly seen outbreaks in Western Africa.

Matshidiso Moeti, WHO’s Regional Director for Africa, said in a statement: “The potential for the Marburg virus to spread far and wide means we need to stop it in its tracks.

“We are working with the health authorities to implement a swift response that builds on Guinea’s past experience and expertise in managing Ebola, which is transmitted in a similar way.”

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