The Marburg Virus


The Marburg Virus Essay, Research Paper

Many new viruses are emerging from the rainforest every year. The deadly viruses include the Ebola, Marburg, and AIDS viruses. They are some of the most destructive and lethal viruses that human kind has ever seen. They seem to affect most of the body and it?s organs with some rather gruesome symptoms. Although most die ending their suffering, some survive to relay the story of their pain. The Marburg virus described in “The Hot Zone” , by Richard Preston, exemplifies these new gruesome viruses well.

A person is infected with the virus through sexual contact or contact with bodily fluid(29,39). After infection, the symptoms begin within seven days(14). The symptoms begin with a headache. This headache worsens throughout the day spreading to pain in the eyes and temples. On the second day the victim begins to feel horrible back pains(14). These symptoms of the first stage of the virus are considerably vague. The victim can easily mistake these symptoms as something minor such as the flu, thus delaying diagnosis.

During the second stage of the virus the symptoms become more visual. At this stage the victim becomes a little more aware that there is something more serious than the flu wrong with them. During this stage the victim?s eyes begin to turn red in color and the face loses all appearance of life(15). “His face lost all appearance of life and set itself into an expressionless mask, with eyeballs fixed, paralytic, and staring. The eyelids were slightly droopy, which gave him a peculiar appearance, as if his eyes were popping out of his head. The eyeballs themselves seemed frozen in their sockets, and they turned bright red. The skin of his face turned yellowish, with brilliant starlike red speckles.”(15) This passage describes Charles Monet who, at this point, is just entering the second stage of the Marburg virus. His skin became jaundice and his eyes have started to turn red, these were the first visible signs that there was something seriously wrong with him(15). At this point Monet?s personality was said to have changed. He was described as sullen, resentful, angry, and he was beginning to lose his memory(15). The symptoms of the virus at this point could still be mistaken for another disease such as Malaria. Dr. Shem Musoke mistook the virus for Malaria when he was in this stage of the virus(29). When given a shot for Malaria, he remarked that “He had never felt such pain from a shot; it was abnormal and memorable.”(30)

The third stage of the virus is by far the most damaging of the stages. “His eyes are the color of rubies, and his face is an expressionless mass of bruises. The red spots, which a few days before had started out as starlike speckles, have expanded and now merge into huge, spontaneous purple shadows: his whole head is turning black-and-blue. The muscles of his face droop. The connective tissue in his face is dissolving, and his face appears to hang from the underlying bone, as if the face is detaching itself from the skull.”(17-18) This passage describes Monet during the third stage of the virus. At this point the victim begins to vomit uncontrollably. This black spotted, red vomit is known as “vomito negro”, or the “black vomit”. This vomit is loaded with the virus(18). At this point “extreme amplification”(18) is starting to take place. Extreme amplification is the saturation of the body with virus particles. At this point it is said that there may be over a hundred million particles of the virus in one drop of the victims blood. Black vomit is the first sign of extreme amplification(18). Blood clot begin to occur throughout the body at the point. The intestines begin to die for lack of blood. Depersonalization starts to take place. This is the wiping away of the victim?s personality by brain damage. Spots on the brain are liquefying(19).

During the final stage “? the human virus bomb explodes.”(23) At this stage the host is said to “crash and bled out”(23). The victim begins to feel weak and their spine goes limp. At this point the victim goes into shock.(23) Massive quantities of blood are expelled from the mouth and anus. The blood is mixed with the broken down lining of the intestines.(24) The victim then dies.

This virus is one of the weaker in the family of filoviruses. (38) Marburg only kills a quarter of those infected. (36) Many live though this extreme torture. “during the survivors? recovery period, the skin peeled off their faces, hands, feet, and genitals. Some men suffered from blown up, inflamed, semirotten testicles.” (page 38) All victims suffered damage to virtually all tissue in the body and experienced hair loss. The virus also remains in the fluid of the eyes for months. (38-39) Although the victim survives they are left with some physical reminders of this deadly virus.

The Marburg virus has one of the lowest mortality rates of these new viruses coming out of the rainforest. Other viruses, such as Ebola Zaire, have as high as a ninety percent kill rate. (18, 36) These new viruses are some of the most destructive our world has ever seen as we were shown in “The Hot Zone”. They have been known to kill off entire villages in some parts of Africa. The spread of these viruses has been caused by man?s interference with nature. The spread of the Marburg virus described in “The Hot Zone” is the perfect example. The virus was spread through the shipping of infected monkeys from Lake Victoria to Germany. The monkeys then spread the disease to those who handled the monkeys, which led to the outbreak there.(42) Organisms living in one part of the world were not meant to be transplanted to other areas of the world outside of their natural habitats. You would have though the world or at least the U.S would have realized this after we experimented moving plants like Kudzu around. Like the Marburg virus, kudzu spread like wild fire after being transplanted covering hundreds of square miles, killing thousands of plants just as the Marburg virus claimed human lives.


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