Equatorial Guinea announced its first outbreak of the Marburg virus, a deadly and highly infectious disease similar to Ebola, the World Health Organization said.
World health officials on Tuesday convened an urgent meeting to address the Marburg outbreak.
The small central African nation of about 1.6 million people reported nine deaths and 16 more suspected cases after a sample sent to a laboratory in Senegal on February 7 came back positive. The patients had symptoms including fever, fatigue, and blood-stained vomit and diarrhoea.
Health Minister Mitoha Ondo’o Ayekaba told reporters that a health alert had been declared in two neighboring areas, Agence France-Presse reported.
The nine deaths occurred between January 7 and February 7, Ayekaba said.
The Marburg virus kills as many as 88% of its victims, according to the WHO. The virus spreads from person to person through direct contact with bodily fluids, WHO said. Illness caused by Marburg virus begins abruptly, with high fever, severe headache and severe malaise. Victims have been known to bleed from their eyes.
The disease comes from the same family of viruses as Ebola. 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.
Officials have been deployed in Equatorial Guinea to “trace contacts, isolate and provide medical care to people showing symptoms of the disease,” the WHO said.
There are no vaccines or antiviral treatments approved to treat the virus, the WHO said. However, it added, oral rehydration therapy and treatment of certain symptoms can improve chances of survival.
With reporting by VOA.