The Marburg virus is feared to be spreading through Africa after Cameroon detected two suspected cases. A 16-year-old boy and girl from the commune of Olamze, approximately two miles from the border, showed symptoms of the sickness, which included blood-stained vomit and eye hemorrhage.
Neither had recently visited Equatorial Guinea, which is in the grip of an outbreak that has already claimed the lives of nine individuals. So far, the country has 16 suspected cases.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) called an emergency conference today to examine ways to contain the disease, bringing in specialists from around the world. There are rising concerns that the world will be caught off guard by the currently untreatable infection, which kills up to 88% of those infected.
‘On the 13th of February, we had two suspected cases,’ said Robert Mathurin Bidjang, the public health delegate for Cameroon’s affected area. He added, “These are two 16-year-old children, a body and a girl, who have no previous travel history to the affected areas in Equatorial Guinea.”
Cameroon has now restricted movement along its border with Equatorial Guinea in order to prevent the Marburg virus from spreading further. It is also following up on 42 persons who were close contacts of the two suspected cases, as well as other contacts.
George Ameh, the WHO’s representative in Equatorial Guinea, stated that surveillance in the field has been increased. Marburg virus has been billed as the next big pandemic threat, with the WHO classifying it as ‘epidemic-prone’.
Members of the Marburg virus vaccine collaboration (MARVAC) told the WHO today that viable vaccines and treatments might take months to develop since producers would need to gather materials and conduct studies. They hope the virus — which spreads via prolonged physical contact, will be contained and controlled before it causes a larger outbreak.
But the outbreak in Equatorial Guinea comes just months after Ghana reported its first outbreak, which marked only the second time the disease had been detected in West Africa.
Equatorial Guinea and the WHO confirmed the country’s first outbreak on Monday. The virus was discovered in samples obtained from deceased individuals who had symptoms such as fever, tiredness, and blood-stained vomit and diarrhoea.
Cases of Marburg are uncommon but exceedingly lethal. Although African fruit bats are natural hosts of the virus, they do not appear to become ill when infected. The virus kills between a quarter and 88 percent of the persons it infects, depending on the strain and the therapy administered.
There are no approved vaccinations or therapies to treat the virus, however, supportive care such as rehydration and medications to relieve some symptoms can improve survival prospects.
The MARVAC team found 28 experimental vaccine candidates, the majority of which were created to combat Ebola. Five vaccines in particular were singled out for further investigation.
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