Marburg virus spreads in Africa, WHO increases health surveillance

Science and Health

The World Health Organization is increasing its epidemiological surveillance in Equatorial Guinea after the country confirmed its first outbreak of the Marburg virus, a WHO official said on Tuesday.

The small Central African country has so far reported nine deaths as well as 16 suspected cases of Marburg virus disease, with symptoms including fever, fatigue and blood-stained vomit and diarrhea, according to the WHO.

“Surveillance in the field has been intensified,” said George Ameh, WHO’s country representative in Equatorial Guinea.

“Contact tracing, as you know, is a cornerstone of the response. We have…redeployed the COVID-19 teams that were there for contact tracing and quickly retrofitted them to really help us out.”

Equatorial Guinea quarantined more than 200 people and restricted movement last week in its Kie-Ntem province after detecting an unknown hemorrhagic fever. The country officially declared its first outbreak of Marburg virus disease on Monday.

World Health Organization Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus and Belgium’s Minister of Development Cooperation Meryame Kitir visit a WHO-backed mRNA vaccine hub, in Cape Town, South Africa, February 11, 2022. (credit: REUTERS/Shelley Christians)

Marburg virus

Marburg virus is a highly infectious and deadly disease similar to Ebola and can have a fatality rate of up to 88%, according to the WHO. There are no vaccines or antiviral treatments approved to treat it.

“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,” Ameh said.

He added that the country’s authorities had not reported any new suspected cases in the last 48 hours.

Other cases

Cameroonian authorities detected two suspected cases of Marburg disease on Monday 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, said on Tuesday.