The World Health Organization held an “urgent meeting” on February 14 to discuss the new Marburg outbreak in Equatorial Guinea and possible vaccine and treatment candidates.
The organization said it would send teams to the affected areas and send experts in epidemiology, case management, infection prevention, lab work, and risk communication to help with the national response.
Matshidiso Moeti, the WHO’s regional director for Africa, said, “Marburg is very contagious.”
Due to the Equatorial Guinean government’s prompt and decisive action in confirming the disease, “emergency response can get to full steam quickly” to save lives and end the virus as soon as possible, Moeti stated.
This week, WHO officials confirmed that the Marburg virus was first found in the west African country, where it has already killed at least nine people.
Previously, in 2017, health officials confirmed a few cases of Marburg in Ghana.
Despite being what the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention calls “a very rare disease in people,” Marburg has the potential to spread, and when it occurs, it can be fatal, officials warned.
Hemorrhagic fever caused by the Marburg virus is highly contagious, the CDC said.
The RNA virus that causes it belongs to the same family as the Ebola virus, Filoviridae.
Both diseases are incredibly uncommon but can cause widespread epidemics with devastating effects.
In previous outbreaks of Marburg, the fatality rate ranged from 24% to 88%, depending on the virus strain and the quality of case management.
People who worked in mines and caves with colonies of Rousettus bats were likely the first to be infected with Marburg because of their prolonged exposure to the virus.
Unlike COVID, officials noted that the disease isn’t spread through the air.
Instead, it rapidly spreads from person to person through contact with infected blood, saliva, or urine, as well as contaminated surfaces and objects.
Family members and healthcare providers remain at risk even after a patient has been buried, as the disease can live on for some time in the body.
In 1967, the disease was found after researchers in Marburg, Germany, Frankfurt, Germany, and Belgrade, Serbia, got sick.
According to the WHO, symptoms like high fever, severe headache, chills, and malaise can appear “abruptly.”
Among the most frequently experienced signs and symptoms are aches and pains in the muscles.
Some of the others are jaundice, nausea, abdominal pain, and diarrhea.
On day five, the CDC says a non-itchy rash may appear on the chest, back, or stomach.
CDC officials warns that many of the symptoms of Marburg “can be difficult” to diagnose in a clinical setting because they are shared with other infectious diseases like malaria, typhoid fever, and Ebola.
Death usually happens 8–9 days after the disease starts.
Initially, the victim experiences lots of blood loss, bleeding, and problems with multiple organs.
According to the WHO, those affected have a “ghost-like” appearance due to their lack of facial expression and extreme listlessness.
There are currently no approved vaccines or antiviral treatments to combat the Marburg virus.
Rehydration through oral or intravenous fluids, maintaining adequate oxygen levels, employing drug therapies, and treating specific symptoms as they arise are all examples of supportive care that can increase the likelihood of survival.
Though no treatments have been proven in clinical trials, some health experts have suggested that Ebola drugs, like those used for the virus, could be effective.
The CDC says that making people more aware of the disease can help stop and control it.
Health officials noted that some “experimental treatments” for Marburg have been tested on animals, not humans.
According to the WHO, at least nine people have died this week, and 16 have been diagnosed in the western Kie-Ntem province.
“We’re still digging into this,” the WHO said.
The organization confirmed it had sent advance teams to the affected districts to “trace contacts, isolate, and provide medical care to people showing symptoms of the disease.”
There are also documented cases in Uganda, Ghana, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Sierra Leone, and South Africa.
According to the Health Ministry of Angola, the largest outbreak in 2005 killed more than 350 people.
“The virus is not known to be native to other continents, such as North America,”
the CDC wrote in a release.
“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,” the health body said.