Marburg virus disease is a highly virulent disease that causes haemorrhagic fever, with a fatality ratio of up to 88%.
There are no vaccines or antiviral treatments approved to treat the Marburg virus
Brazzaville/Malabo – Equatorial Guinea today confirmed its first-ever outbreak of Marburg virus disease. Preliminary tests carried out following the deaths of at least nine people in the country’s western Kie Ntem Province turned out positive for the viral haemorrhagic fever.
Equatorial Guinean health authorities sent samples to the Institut Pasteur reference laboratory in Senegal with support from World Health Organization (WHO) to determine the cause of the disease after an alert by a district health official on 7 February. Of the eight samples tested at Institut Pasteur, one turned out positive for the virus. So far nine deaths and 16 suspected cases with symptoms including fever, fatigue and blood-stained vomit and diarrhoea have been reported.
Further investigations are ongoing. Advance teams have been deployed in the affected districts to trace contacts, isolate and provide medical care to people showing symptoms of the disease. 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 is also facilitating the shipment of laboratory glove tents for sample testing as well as one viral haemorrhagic fever kit that includes personal protective equipment that can be used by 500 health workers.
“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 save lives and halt the virus as soon as possible,” said Dr Matshidiso Moeti, WHO Regional Director for Africa.
Marburg virus disease is a highly virulent disease that causes haemorrhagic fever, with a fatality ratio of up to 88%. It is in the same family as the virus that causes Ebola virus disease. Illness caused by Marburg virus begins abruptly, with high fever, severe headache and severe malaise. Many patients develop severe haemorrhagic symptoms within seven days. The virus is transmitted to people from fruit bats and spreads among humans through direct contact with the bodily fluids of infected people, surfaces and materials.
There are no vaccines or antiviral treatments approved to treat the virus. However, supportive care – rehydration with oral or intravenous fluids – and treatment of specific symptoms, improves survival. A range of potential treatments, including blood products, immune therapies and drug therapies, as well as candidate vaccines with phase 1 data are being evaluated.
- The deadly Marburg virus has surfaced this week for the first time in Equatorial Guinea, causing at least nine deaths in the west African nation, according to the World Health Organization. A handful of Marburg cases were identified in Ghana late last year. Although it remains “a very rare disease in people,” according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “when it occurs, it has the potential to spread,” and can be fatal.
- What is the Marburg virus?
- Marburg virus disease is a highly infectious viral hemorrhagic fever, according to the CDC. It is spawned by the animal-borne RNA virus of the same Filoviridae family as the Ebola virus. Both diseases are rare but have the capacity to cause outbreaks with high fatality rates.
- Fatality rates for Marburg cases in past outbreaks ranged between 24 percent to 88 percent, according to the WHO, depending on the virus strain and quality of case management.
- Marburg was probably first transmitted to people from African fruit batsas a result of prolonged exposure from people working in mines and caves that have Rousettus bat colonies.
- It is not an airborne disease. Instead, it spreads quickly between humans through direct contact with the bodily fluids of infected people such as blood, saliva or urine, as well as on surfaces and materials. Relatives and health workers remain most vulnerable alongside patients, and bodies can remain contagious even at burial. It was first recognized in 1967, when outbreaks occurred among laboratory workers in Marburg and Frankfurt, Germany and in Belgrade, Serbia while conducting research.
- What is the treatment for Marburg virus?
- There are no vaccines or antiviral treatments approved to treat the Marburg virus.
- Supportive care can improve survival rates, such as rehydration with oral or intravenous fluids, maintaining oxygen levels, using drug therapies and treating specific symptoms as they arise. Some health experts say drugs similar to those used for Ebola could be effective but treatments have not been proven in clinical trials. Increasing awareness of its contagious nature can also help with prevention and spread, says the CDC.
- Some “experimental treatments” for Marburg have been tested in animals but not in humans, the CDC said.