At least nine people have died in an outbreak of the Marburg virus disease in western Equatorial Guinea, the World Health Organization (WHO) has said.
The first-ever outbreak in the country was confirmed after preliminary tests carried out following the deaths in Kie Ntem province turned out to be positive for the viral hemorrhagic fever, according to the WHO statement on Monday.
Health authorities in the Central African country sent samples to the Institut Pasteur reference laboratory in Senegal with support from WHO to determine the cause of the disease after an alert by a district health official last Tuesday, it said.
Of the eight samples tested at Institut Pasteur, one tested positive for the virus, the statement said, adding that so far, there were 16 suspected cases with symptoms, including fever, fatigue and blood-stained vomit and diarrhea.
"Marburg is highly infectious. Thanks to the rapid and decisive action by the Equatorial Guinean authorities in confirming the disease, emergency response can get to full steam quickly so that we save lives and halt the virus as soon as possible," said Matshidiso Moeti, WHO regional director for Africa.
The statement added that further investigations were ongoing and advance teams deployed in affected districts to trace contacts, as well as to isolate and provide medical care to people showing symptoms of the disease.
The Marburg virus, which is in the same family as the virus that causes Ebola, is highly virulent and manifests as hemorrhagic fever, with a fatality ratio of up to 88%.
The illness caused by Marburg virus begins abruptly with high fever, severe headache, and severe malaise.
Many patients develop severe hemorrhagic symptoms within seven days, with no vaccines or antiviral treatments approved yet to treat the virus.
The virus is transmitted to people from fruit bats and spreads among humans through direct contact with the bodily fluids of infected people, surfaces, and materials.
Source: Anadolu Agency