WHO calls ‘urgent’ meeting after Marburg virus outbreak kills 9 in Africa

There are no vaccines or antiviral treatments approved to treat Marburg but potential treatments, including blood products, immune therapies and drug therapies, as well as early candidate vaccines, are being evaluated, the WHO says. (Photo: Supplied)

Tuesday, the World Health Organization held an "urgent" meeting in response to a deadly Marburg virus epidemic in Africa.

At least nine deaths have been reported as a result of the first-ever virus epidemic in Equatorial Guinea, prompting a meeting of WHO representatives to examine progress on vaccine and treatment possibilities.

The Marburg virus is among the most lethal illnesses known to humanity. According to the WHO, its fatality rate for hemorrhagic fever is as high as 88%, making it significantly more destructive than its better-known cousin, the Ebola virus.

As with Ebola, the disease is transmitted to humans by fruit bats and spreads through direct contact with bodily fluids and surfaces such as bedsheets and clothing, according to the WHO.

"Marburg is contagious. Dr Matshidiso Moeti, WHO Regional Director for Africa, remarked, "Thanks to Equatorial Guinean authorities' swift and decisive action in confirming the disease, emergency response can ramp up quickly to save lives and stop the virus as soon as possible."

After an alert from a local health official last week, samples from Equatorial Guinea were transferred to a laboratory in Senegal to determine the cause of the outbreak, according to the World Health Organization.

Nine out of sixteen probable cases have resulted in death, with symptoms including fever, tiredness, diarrhoea, and bloody vomit.

Symptoms of Marburg virus

Within seven days, patients often have severe hemorrhagic symptoms, according to the World Health Organization.

According to the agency, patients have been described as having "ghost-like" drawn features, deep eyes, expressionless faces, and excessive drowsiness.

Typically, fatal cases involve blood in the vomit and faeces, as well as nose, mouth, and vaginal bleeding.

The WHO announced that it would send medical specialists and protective equipment to Equatorial Guinea to assist government officials in containing the outbreak.

On Monday, probable cases of Ebola were discovered in Olamze, a commune bordering Equatorial Guinea, prompting Cameroon to restrict transportation in the region.

George Ameh, WHO's national representative in Equatorial Guinea, stated, "Surveillance on the ground has been increased."

"As you know, contact tracing is essential to the response. We have swiftly refitted the COVID-19 teams for contact tracing and redeployed them," Ameh explained.

Currently, there are no approved vaccines or antiviral treatments for the Marburg virus. However, according to the WHO, supportive care improves survival, such as rehydration with oral or intravenous fluids.

Several treatments, including blood products, immunotherapies, and vaccine candidates, are now being studied.

Ameh stated, "We are working on a 30-day response plan in which we should be able to quantify the exact measures and needs."

An outbreak of Marburg in Angola in 2004 killed 90% of the 252 afflicted people. In Ghana, there were two documented Marburg deaths from the previous year.

The uncommon virus was detected for the first time in 1967 after it caused disease outbreaks in laboratories in Marburg, Germany and Belgrade, Serbia. Seven individuals died after being exposed to the virus during studies on animals.

Publish : 2023-02-15 09:05:00

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