In February 2023, WHO Africa confirmed that Equatorial Guinea had announced an outbreak of Marburg virus disease following the deaths of at least nine people. Preliminary tests after these deaths in the western Kie Ntem Province were positive for the viral haemorrhagic fever.
Deaths and suspected cases
The health authorities in Equatorial Guinea sent samples to the Institut Pasteur reference laboratory in Senegal, with support from WHO, to “determine the cause of the disease” after an alert by a district health official on 7th February. 8 samples were tested at the lab, with one being confirmed positive for the virus.
“So far nine deaths and 16 suspected cases with symptoms including fever, fatigue, blood-stained vomit, and diarrhoea have been reported.”
Investigations and containment efforts
WHO emphasises that further investigations are ongoing, with advance teams deployed in the affect districts to “trace contacts” and “isolate and provide medical care” to symptomatic patients.
“Efforts are also underway to rapidly mount emergency response, with WHO deploying health emergency experts in epidemiology, case management, infection prevention, laboratory, and risk communication to support the national response efforts and secure community collaboration in the outbreak control.”
WHO will also facilitate the shipment of laboratory glove tents for testing as well as a viral haemorrhagic fever kit with protective equipment for 500 health workers.
Dr Mtashidiso Moeti, Regional Director for Africa, emphasised that “Marburg is highly infectious”.
“Thanks to the rapid and decisive action by the Equatorial Guinean authorities in confirming the disease, emergency response can get to full steam quickly so that we can save lives and halt the virus as soon as possible.”
An outbreak of Marburg in Ghana was successfully contained in 2022, but it is a highly virulent disease with a fatality ratio of up to 88%. Although there are no approved vaccines, NIH reported “encouraging” results with a candidate earlier this year. We will continue to report on the situation as it unfolds.
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