The World Health Organisation (WHO) on Thursday reported that Equatorial Guinea had confirmed eight more cases of the Marburg Viral Disease, signalling the spread of the deadly infectious ailment weeks after the first case was detected.
However, there was no indication the scourge in Equatorial Guinea was related to the one in Tanzania’s Bukoba region where some eight people had been confirmed with it, five of whom have since died.
Equatorial Guinea had in fact detected its first case on the eve of Valentine’s Day with medical experts including the WHO initially rushing to trace contacts. The country's ministry of health said 20 deaths have been reported so far.
“The new cases were confirmed following laboratory analysis of additional samples. So far, there are 20 probable cases and 20 deaths”, the WHO said in a statement.
Supporting rapid response
WHO added that the new cases had been reported from Kie Ntem in the east, Litoral in the west and Centro Sur provinces of the country, all sharing international borders with Cameroon and Gabon.
“We are also supporting the health authorities in neighbouring Cameroon and Gabon to ramp up outbreak readiness and response”, WHO added.
The areas reporting the cases are about 150 kilometres apart, suggesting wider transmission of the virus.
“The confirmation of these new cases is a critical signal to scale up response efforts to quickly stop the chain of transmission and avert a potential large-scale outbreak and loss of life,” WHO Regional Director for Africa Matshidiso Moeti said.
“Marburg is highly virulent but can be effectively controlled and halted by promptly deploying a broad range of outbreak response measures,” Dr Moeti said
Tanzania’s Health Minister Ummy Mwalimu confirmed on Tuesday that the Marburg haemorrhagic fever had been detected in Bukoba in Kagera, on the shores of Lake Victoria. This prompted Kenya on Wednesday to heighten disease surveillance systems across its border points with the country.
No vaccine yet
Marburg is transmitted to people from fruit bats and spreads among humans through direct contact with the bodily fluids of infected people, surfaces and materials.
The disease is highly virulent and causes haemorrhagic fever, with a fatality ratio of up to 88 percent. It is in the same family as the virus that causes Ebola virus disease.
There are no vaccines or antiviral treatments approved to treat the virus.
However, supportive care such as rehydration with oral or intravenous fluids as well as treatment of specific symptoms improves survival.
WHO is working with Equatorial Guinea’s authorities to step up emergency response measures by enhancing disease surveillance, testing, clinical care, infection prevention and control as well as carrying out further epidemiological investigations and bolstering public awareness to help curb infection spread.