SWITZERLAND — The World Health Organization (WHO) is ramping up its efforts to track the spread of the Marburg virus in Equatorial Guinea, a small country in Central Africa, after the nation confirmed its first outbreak.
So far, there have been nine reported deaths and 16 suspected cases of the disease in Equatorial Guinea, which is marked by symptoms such as fever, fatigue, blood-stained vomit, and diarrhea.
To combat the outbreak, the WHO has increased its surveillance efforts in the field, according to George Ameh, the organization’s country representative in Equatorial Guinea.
Contact tracing is a crucial aspect of the response, and COVID-19 teams have been repurposed to help identify and isolate potential cases.
Last week, Equatorial Guinea quarantined over 200 people and limited movement in Kie-Ntem province after discovering an unknown hemorrhagic fever.
The country officially declared its first outbreak of Marburg virus disease on Monday. This disease is highly infectious and can be deadly, with a fatality rate of up to 88%. At present, there are no vaccines or antiviral treatments approved for its treatment.
“We’re working on a 30-day response plan where we should be able to quantify what are the exact measures and quantify what are the exact needs,” said Ameh.
However, there have been no new suspected cases reported in the last 48 hours, according to the country’s authorities.
Following the confirmation of Marburg virus outbreak, WHO has moved swiftly to convene an urgent meeting of the Marburg virus vaccine consortium (MARVAC) to discuss the outbreak.
MARVAC includes leaders in the field of vaccine research and development, working together to develop vaccines against the disease.
In related news, Cameroon has also reported two suspected cases of Marburg disease in Olamze, a commune in the country’s South Province region on the border with Equatorial Guinea.
The public health delegate for the region, Robert Mathurin Bidjang, confirmed the news, adding that the two 16-year-old children had no previous travel history to the affected areas in Equatorial Guinea.
Cameroon had previously restricted movement along the border to prevent contagion after reports of an unknown, deadly hemorrhagic fever in Equatorial Guinea.
Marburg virus is a highly infectious virus that is in the same family as the Ebola virus. It is transmitted to humans through contact with the bodily fluids of infected people, surfaces, or materials.
Fruit bats are the natural hosts of the virus and are thought to be the primary source of infection.
The disease was first identified in 1967 after simultaneous outbreaks in Germany and Serbia. The illness starts suddenly, with high fever, severe headache, and malaise.
Within a week, many patients develop severe hemorrhagic symptoms, including bleeding from the eyes, ears, and mouth.
Currently, there are no approved vaccines or antiviral treatments for Marburg virus disease. However, rehydration with oral or intravenous fluids, and treatment of specific symptoms, can improve a patient’s chances of survival.
Early detection and isolation of infected individuals can help to prevent the spread of the virus to others.