September 22, 2023

Marburg Virus Disease Outbreaks in Equatorial Guinea and Tanzania Prompt Strong Response from Health Authorities

The 151st session of the Executive Board on 30 May 2022. This second shorter meeting of the year is a follow-up to the World Health Assembly. The Executive Board is composed of 34 technically qualified members elected for three-year terms. The main functions of the Board are to implement the decisions and policies of the Health Assembly, and advise and generally to facilitate its work.

Equatorial Guinea and the United Republic of Tanzania are grappling with separate outbreaks of Marburg virus disease (MVD) since early February and late March 2023, respectively. In Equatorial Guinea, from February 13 to May 1, 2023, 17 laboratory-confirmed MVD cases and 23 probable cases have been reported, with 12 deaths among confirmed cases.

The most affected district is Bata in Litoral province. In Tanzania, between March 16 and April 30, 2023, nine cases, including eight laboratory-confirmed cases and one probable case, have been reported. Six deaths have occurred, including one probable case and five among confirmed cases. All cases are from the Bukoba district in the Kagera region.

In an update on Monday, the WHO said that health authorities in both countries have demonstrated strong political commitment and have recently reinforced critical response functions, such as disease surveillance, laboratory activities, clinical case management, infection prevention and control, risk communication, community engagement, and operations support and logistics. The World Health Organization (WHO) and partners are providing support.

The incubation period for MVD varies from 2 to 21 days, with symptoms including high fever, severe headache, and severe malaise. Severe hemorrhagic manifestations may appear between five and seven days from symptom onset. Transmission occurs via direct contact with blood, secretions, organs, or other bodily fluids of infected people or contaminated surfaces.

While no vaccines or antiviral treatments are currently approved for the prevention or treatment of MVD, Remdesivir is being used on a modified, monitored emergency-use basis in Equatorial Guinea. Early supportive care and treatment of specific symptoms and co-infections can improve survival. This is the first reported outbreak of MVD in both Equatorial Guinea and Tanzania, with prior outbreaks reported in countries such as Ghana, Guinea, Uganda, Angola, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Kenya, and South Africa.

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