- Equatorial Guinea has confirmed 9 deaths from Marburg virus and is examining 16 suspected cases.
- Marburg virus is a highly infectious disease that can be transmitted by exposure to mines or caves inhabited by Rousettus bat colonies.
- It is not an airborne disease and can be fatal, with the WHO stating that on average, it kills half those infected.
- Symptoms include a high fever, severe headache, malaise, muscle aches and cramping pains, diarrhoea, fever, nausea and vomiting.
- The WHO is urging people to take the necessary precautions to protect themselves from Marburg virus and other hazardous materials.
Equatorial Guinea has confirmed its first nine deaths from the Marburg virus, a highly infectious disease similar to Ebola, with health authorities currently examining a further 16 suspected cases.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) has declared the country’s first-ever epidemic of the disease after samples were verified by a laboratory in Senegal.
Two suspected cases of Marburg disease have also been detected in Cameroon and an outbreak was confirmed in neighbouring Equatorial Guinea.
What is Marburg Virus?
Marburg virus is a highly infectious disease that can be transmitted by exposure to mines or caves inhabited by Rousettus bat colonies, which carry the pathogen.
Once a person is infected, Marburg can spread through human-to-human transmission via direct contact with blood, secretions, organs or other bodily fluids of these individuals and with surfaces and materials contaminated with these fluids.
It is not an airborne disease.
The virus can be fatal, with the WHO stating that on average, it kills half those infected. However, the most harmful strains have killed up to 88 per cent, making it one of the deadliest pathogens on the planet.
History of Marburg Virus
Marburg virus was first described in 1967, after being discovered that year during a set of outbreaks in the German cities of Marburg and Frankfurt and the Serbian capital Belgrade.
Since then, outbreaks have been reported in Kenya, South, Africa, Uganda and Zimbabwe. Only one person in Europe has died of the disease in the past 40 years.
Symptoms and Treatment
The incubation period for Marburg virus disease – how long it takes before symptoms emerge – varies from two to 21 days.
Symptoms include a high fever, severe headache, malaise, muscle aches and cramping pains, diarrhoea, fever, nausea and vomiting.
In fatal cases, death usually occurs between eight and nine days after the onset of the disease.
There are no antiviral treatments or vaccines for the infection. However, a range of drugs and immune therapies are being developed. A patient’s chances of survival can also be improved by keeping them hydrated with oral or intravenous fluids and maintaining oxygen levels.
Gavi, an international organisation promoting vaccine access, says that people in Africa should avoid eating or handling bushmeat. Doctors and families should also be careful when dealing with the body of an infected individual, as they can remain contagious after death.
The last outbreak of the virus was detected in Ghana in June 2022. The WHO is working with the government of Equatorial Guinea to respond to the outbreak and has deployed experts in epidemiology, clinical care and disease prevention to the country.
The WHO is also assisting officials in Cameroon and Gabon to prepare for rapidly detecting, isolating and providing care to people who may contract Marburg virus.
Attendees at the WHO meeting discussed potential vaccine candidates and three drug developers said they may be able to make enough doses to test vaccines in the current outbreak. The WHO and Equatorial Guinea officials are also in discussions about potentially testing experimental therapeutics in the region.
The risk of the virus spreading to countries outside of Africa, such as the US and UK, is extremely low. However, people should be aware of the dangers of Marburg virus and take the necessary precautions to protect themselves.
In addition to the Marburg virus outbreak, a freight train carrying hazardous chemicals partially derailed and set fire near East Palestine, Ohio on 3 February. The incident released hazardous chemicals into the surroundings and raised concerns about possible health effects for residents.
According to Russell …, a professor of civil engineering at the University of Texas at Austin, the train is “basically dealing with a big mile-long or more slinky”.
The WHO is urging people to take the necessary precautions to protect themselves from Marburg virus and other hazardous materials. This includes avoiding eating or handling bushmeat, being careful when dealing with the body of an infected individual, and staying hydrated with oral or intravenous fluids.
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