Marburg virus outbreak: Concern is expressed over the confirmation of an outbreak of Marburg virus in Equatorial Guinea, Central Africa. Marburg virus is a filovirus that causes viral hemorrhagic fever and it has close ties to Ebola.
The first outbreaks were documented in 1967 among lab workers from Germany and Yugoslavia who worked with African green monkeys imported from Uganda; since then outbreaks have occurred less frequently than Ebola but still occurred; Angola experienced its largest outbreak in 2005.
- An outbreak of Marburg virus has been confirmed in Equatorial Guinea, Central Africa, with at least 16 cases and nine deaths reported.
- Marburg is a filovirus, like Ebola, and can cause viral haemorrhagic fever, with a high fatality rate.
- Like Ebola in 2014, there is a fear that Marburg could spread and become a much larger epidemic, potentially even globally.
- Non-pharmaceutical measures, such as surveillance, case detection, isolation and quarantine, are crucial in controlling the epidemic rapidly.
- Personal protective equipment, disinfection, and safe disposal of biological waste are important measures to prevent the spread of the virus.
- Health promotion and effective communication, tailored to cultural practices and local communities, are needed to ensure compliance with health measures.
- Rapid epidemic intelligence using open-source data can help detect signals early in low-income countries with weak surveillance systems.
- Knowledge and experience gained from the 2014 Ebola epidemic can inform the response to this epidemic of Marburg virus and hopefully control it quickly.
Marburg virus outbreak in Equatorial Guinea is significant as it marks the first time Marburg virus has been documented within the country. At least 16 cases have been confirmed and nine deaths reported; unfortunately, Marburg virus has a lethality rate up to 90% and there are currently no approved treatments for it.
However, vaccines and drugs are being developed with lessons learned from Ebola’s 2014 outbreak that could help expedite their production for Marburg virus as well.
Fears are that Marburg could spread and become a much larger epidemic, similar to what happened with Ebola in 2014.
Travel could bring it into other countries without proper diagnosis, which proved fatal when an unknown traveler from West Africa was mistakenly diagnosed with Ebola while hospitalized in Dallas, Texas during peak of 2014 epidemic; unfortunately, several deaths resulted from this misdiagnosis. Nigeria also experienced this issue during this outbreak which lead to multiple fatalities.
Controlling an epidemic requires non-pharmaceutical measures. Good surveillance and case detection, finding sick people, isolating them from their contacts, and quarantining those contacts to prevent transmission are essential.
Physical sites for isolation/quarantine, personal protective equipment for disinfection and safe disposal of biological waste must all be implemented. Furthermore, health promotion as well as culturally appropriate communication are necessary to guarantee compliance with health measures.
Both Marburg and Ebola can remain in the body after recovery, including organs like seminal/vaginal fluid, the eye, and other sites. This makes outbreaks from human survivors more likely than those from animals. Low-income countries with weak surveillance systems may benefit from rapid epidemic intelligence using open source data to detect signals earlier.
If this epidemic spreads unchecked and becomes out of control, WHO may declare a “Public Health Emergency of International Concern,” similar to what happened with an Ebola epidemic in 2019 in Democratic Republic of Congo.
In conclusion, the confirmation of an outbreak of Marburg virus in Equatorial Guinea is cause for alarm and urgent action must be taken to contain it. Non-pharmaceutical approaches are the best hope for controlling this epidemic quickly; lessons from 2014’s Ebola crisis could provide inspiration in developing vaccines and drugs against Marburg virus quickly as well.
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