Ebola: Guinea Health Agency head declares ‘pandemic’ in February
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The disease, which can cause victims to bleed to death, has appeared in Guinea in west Africa for the first time, prompting concerns the incident could escalate. Experts believe the Ebola-like illness, which can be up to 88 percent fatal, and for which there is no known treatment or cure, could “spread far and wide”.
Health authorities in the country are now monitoring 155 people who may have been in contact with the confirmed case, the World Health Organisation said.
The patient died in Gueckedou in southeastern Guinea – also the location of the 2014-16 West Africa Ebola outbreak.
Georges Ki-Zerbo, the WHO country head in Guinea, said: “There is no known secondary case.
“The contacts have been traced, and 155 people are under observation for three weeks.
“It is active surveillance. The contacts are kept at home, isolated from other members of the family.
The man who died of Marburg may have spread it to 155 people, the WHO warned (Image: GETTY)
Marburg has not been previously detected in Guinea (Image: GETTY)
“They are visited every day to check on potential symptoms.”
The patient became symptomatic and visited a small health clinic near his village on August 1.
Marburg and Ebola are closely related and transmission between humans is usually through contact with blood or other bodily fluids.
Guinea was declared free of Ebola two months ago, following an outbreak that killed 12 people.
An Ebola treatment centre in Guinea in 2015 (Image: GETTY)
Marburg fatality rates in past outbreaks have varied from 24 percent to 88 percent of those infected.
But Mr Ki-Zerbo insisted Guinea was better prepared to handle an outbreak than it had been when Ebola struck in 2014.
The discovery of the Marburg case also indicated improved ability to detect such infections, he stressed.
Mr Ki-Zerbo added: “Guinea has built a robust health security system since the last Ebola outbreak in 2014 to 2016.”
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Dr Tedros Ghebreyesus, director-general of the WHO (Image: GETTY)
The Marburg virus causes Marburg haemorrhagic fever (Image: GETTY)
There is no vaccine or drug specifically directed to the virus
He emphasised the use of rapid response teams, disease detectives, epidemiologists and social anthropologists, as well as better coordination with neighbouring countries.
He added: “Globally, the approach to combating Marburg would not be different from Ebola.
“The only difference is that there is no vaccine or drug specifically directed to the virus.
“Only supportive care is available.”
Guinea factfile (Image: GETTY)
In a statement issued on Sunday, the WHO said: “Guinea’s health authorities have responded rapidly to this event, and measures are being quickly implemented to control the outbreak.
“The affected village is in a remote forested area located near the border with Sierra Leone and Liberia.
“Cross-border population movement and community mixing between Guinea and neighbouring Sierra Leone and Liberia may increase the risk of cross-border spread and as such, the Ministry of Health and Sanitation has proactively assessed the situation together with stakeholders and the district health leadership in Kono and Kailahun districts of Sierra Leone have been alerted.”
Health authorities in Sierra Leone and Liberia had activated contingency plans and have started public health measures at the points of entry with Guinea, the WHO said.
Guinea is in west Africa (Image: GETTY)
It warned: “Additionally the potential transmission of the virus between bat colonies and humans also pose an increased risk for cross-border spread.
“These factors suggest a high risk at the national level, requiring an immediate and coordinated response with support from international partners.
“The risk at the regional level is high, based on the fact that the Guéckédou prefecture is well connected to Liberia and Sierra Leone, although authorities are already taking action.
“The risk associated with the event at the global level is low.”