Health officials in Equatorial Guinea have reported the first cases of the Marburg virus, a rare but highly-infectious disease that can cause hemorrhagic fever, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). The virus has spread to the Kie Ntem province of the country, where nine people have died from a viral fever and 16 suspected cases have been reported.
The Marburg virus is in the same family as Ebola, and it is typically spread by fruit bats. Human-to-human transmission can occur through direct contact with bodily fluids, making it a highly contagious virus. The disease is highly virulent and can lead to hemorrhagic fever within a week, which has an 88% fatality rate.
There are no approved vaccines or antiviral treatments against Marburg, but rehydration, including intravenous fluids, can boost survival rates. Detecting the outbreak in Equatorial Guinea has been complicated due to symptoms, such as fever, chills, headache, and muscle weakness, which are similar to those of other infectious diseases, including malaria, typhoid fever, and viral fevers like Ebola.
To control the outbreak, WHO has deployed emergency health workers to help conduct contact tracing and isolation policies. The organization also plans to convene an "urgent meeting" on Tuesday to address the outbreak.
Marburg was first detected in 1967 in Germany and the former Yugoslavia, with 31 cases, primarily linked to lab monkeys. Small outbreaks were detected in the 1970s, 1980s, and 1990s in South Africa, Kenya, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, which recorded 154 cases and 128 deaths, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Another 252 people tested positive for the virus in Angola in 2004, with 227 of them dying of the contagious virus.
In June of 2022, health officials in Ghana advised people to avoid caves and thoroughly cook meat after detecting three more positive cases, including two deaths.
The outbreak of the Marburg virus in Equatorial Guinea is a cause for concern due to its highly contagious nature and high fatality rate. As of now, the only way to control the spread of the virus is through contact tracing and isolation policies. However, with no approved vaccines or antiviral treatments, healthcare workers will have to rely on rehydration to help boost survival rates. WHO's "urgent meeting" on Tuesday is expected to address the outbreak and take necessary measures to control its spread.