Equatorial Guinea and Tanzania are facing their first known outbreaks of Marburg disease, a viral fever with uncontrolled bleeding that is from the same virus family as Ebola.
Located on the coast in west central Africa, Equatorial Guinea last week confirmed 13 cases of Marburg disease since the outbreak began in mid-February.
Nine people have died and one patient has recovered, according to last week’s figures.
The World Health Organization (WHO) has urged the country’s government to report new cases officially.
What is the Marburg virus and how deadly is it?
Marburg virus disease is a rare but severe viral haemorrhagic fever. Its most common outbreaks are on the African continent.
Fruit bats are considered natural hosts for Marburg virus, from which the virus is then transmitted to people.
Case fatality rates have varied from 24 per cent up to 88 per cent, according to the WHO.
What are its symptoms?
Symptoms include fever, fatigue, blood-stained vomit and diarrhoea.
Marburg is from the same virus family responsible for the deadly Ebola disease, and it’s described as having symptoms broadly similar to those of Ebola, explains the WHO.
There are no vaccines or antiviral treatments approved to treat it.
A patient’s chances of survival can be improved by treatment of specific symptoms and rehydration via oral or intravenous fluids.
How is Marburg transmitted?
Marburg spreads between people via direct contact with:
- broken skin or mucous membranes with the blood
- secretions, organs or other bodily fluids of infected people
- surfaces and materials such as bedding, clothing contaminated with these fluids.
When was Marburg virus first detected?
It was initially identified in 1967, after simultaneous outbreaks in two German cities, Marburg and Frankfurt, and in Belgrade, Serbia.
Where else has Marburg virus been recorded?
As well as Equatorial Guinea confirming its first-ever outbreak of the disease, Tanzania confirmed its first eight cases, including five deaths, which have been reported in the north-west Kagera region.
Other Marburg virus disease outbreaks have been previously reported in:
- Guinea in 2021
- Uganda in 2017, 2014, 2012, 2007
- Angola in 2004-2005
- the Democratic Republic of the Congo in 1998 and 2000
- Kenya in 1990, 1987, 1980
- South Africa in 1975.
What are health officials doing now?
The WHO said it was working with local authorities and vaccine manufacturers to set up trials in affected countries.
“[The] WHO is aware of additional cases and we have asked the government to report these cases officially to [the] WHO,” the WHO’s Director-General, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, said last week.
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