Marburg outbreak spreads quickly across Equatorial Guinea

The virus is anticipated to reach Cameroon and Gabon soon.
Loukia Papadopoulos
Marburg virus.
Marburg virus.

Wikimedia Commons  

The Marburg virus illness, or MVD, made its first outbreak in Equatorial Guinea on Tuesday, February 14. Now it is spreading at an alarming rate.

According to Ars Technica, the Marburg virus is the causative agent of hemorrhagic fever and belongs to the same family of viruses, Filoviridae, as the Ebola virus. It is named after the first reported outbreak in Marburg, Germany, in 1967.

As of Wednesday morning, nine confirmed cases of the virus have been reported in Equatorial Guinea, with seven confirmed deaths.

"However, these three provinces are 150 kilometers apart, suggesting wider transmission of the virus," WHO's Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said in a press conference Wednesday. The numbers could be far worse as there has been a delay in reporting.

Equatorial Guinea's Ministry of Health and Social Welfare revealed on Facebook that, as of March 28, there had been 13 cases of the infection, with nine confirmed deaths. Mike Ryan, executive director of the health emergencies program of WHO, warned about the late situation.

“There's always a slight delay between the case being confirmed on the ground and having an official report—that's not my concern," Ryan said. 

He went on to explain that reporting in the middle of an outbreak needs to be done as swiftly as possible so people can protect themselves. 

Delays are worrisome

"Any delay in releasing information related to lab-confirmed cases—especially when it relates to newly affected areas—prevents the process of alerting communities and having them take action to protect themselves and their families," he said. 

"So, this is not just a legal requirement in some international law [to report cases to WHO]. This is a sovereign and solemn requirement of all states to inform their own people of what is going on in their country, to the best of their knowledge."

Making matters more complicated is the fact that affected provinces share borders with Cameroon and Gabon. This means there could soon be a multi-country outbreak that will be much more difficult to control.

"Cross-border population movements are frequent, and the borders are very porous. Although no [Marburg virus disease] cases have been reported outside Equatorial Guinea, the risk of international spread cannot be ruled out," WHO stated, as reported by Ars Technica.

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