The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said in a statement today that five Egyptian rousette fruit bats caught in Sierra Leone tested positive for the Marburg virus, a deadly hemorrhagic fever similar to Ebola and so far undetected in West Africa.
The African fruit bat is the reservoir host of the virus, which has caused at least 12 outbreaks of hemorrhagic fever on the continent. While it is not completely surprising that the virus popped up in Sierra Leone given the presence of these bats in the region, the findings mark the first confirmation of Marburg virus in the country and in this part of the continent.
Marburg virus, a cousin to Ebola, has a high mortality rate. Angola suffered the worst epidemic in 2005, when 90 percent of the 252 people infected in the southern African country died. The continent’s most recent outbreak killed three people in Uganda last year.
Resource Page for Marburg Hemorrhagic Fever (CDC)
Development of Multi-Epitope Monovalent Vaccine Against Marburg (BioRxiv)
Tracking Bats in Effort to Learn More About Marburg, Ebola Viruses (WaPo)