Equatorial Guinea has been declared free from the outbreak of the deadly Marburg virus, four months after highly infectious viral haemorrhagic fever was first confirmed in the country.
In a statement released on Thursday, the World Health Organization (WHO) said no new cases have been reported over the past 42 days in the country after the last patient was discharged from treatment.
“The hard work by Equatorial Guinea’s health workers and support by partner organizations has been crucial in ending this outbreak,” said Dr Matshidiso Moeti, WHO Regional Director for Africa.
The first of such outbreaks in Equatorial Guinea, 17 laboratory-confirmed cases and 23 probable cases of Marburg virus were recorded in the central African nation of 1.6 million inhabitants since it declared the outbreak on February 13 this year.
Of the confirmed cases there were 12 deaths while all the 23 probable cases also died in five districts of the country’s eight provinces, according to the UN Health Agency’s statement.
Marburg is a highly infectious viral haemorrhagic fever and in the same deadly family as the familiar Ebola virus. It 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. But WHO says supportive care – rehydration with oral or intravenous fluids – and treatment of specific symptoms, improve survival.
Although the outbreak has ended, UN Health Agency says it will continue working with Equatorial Guinea to maintain measures such as surveillance and testing to enable prompt action should flare-ups of the virus occur.
The first outbreak of the Marburg virus on the continent was recorded in South Africa in 1975, according to WHO. Since then, the outbreak and sporadic cases have been reported in Angola, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ghana, Kenya, Equatorial Guinea, Uganda and most recently Equatorial Guinea and Tanzania – the last two countries which have both been declared free of the deadly virus.
On June 2, Tanzania declared an end to the virus after recording nine cases – eight confirmed and one probable – and six deaths just over two months after it was declared in the East African nation’s north-western Kagera region.
“While outbreak-prone diseases continue to pose a major health threat in Africa, we can bank on the region’s growing expertise in health emergency response to act quickly and decisively to safeguard health and avert widespread loss of life,” WHO further quoted Dr Moeti in Thursday’s statement.