Tags: marburg virus | who | public health | vaccines

WHO Convenes 'Urgent Meeting' Over Marburg Virus Outbreak

By    |   Tuesday, 14 February 2023 07:41 PM EST

An outbreak of the deadly Marburg virus prompted the World Health Organization (WHO) to convene an “urgent meeting” Tuesday to discuss accelerating the development and production of vaccines and therapeutics for the disease.

The virus is similar to Ebola and has killed nine people in Equatorial Guinea, with 16 others believed to be infected, according to the WHO. This is the central African nation’s first outbreak of the highly-infectious pathogen.

There are growing fears that the world could be caught off guard by the virus, which is fatal in up to 88% of infected people and is billed as the next big pandemic threat.

“Surveillance in the field has been intensified,” George Ameh, WHO's country representative in Equatorial Guinea, said during the meeting, according to the Daily Mail.

“Contact tracing, as you know, is a cornerstone of the response. We have... redeployed the COVID-19 teams that were there for contact tracing and quickly retrofitted them to really help us out.”

The scarcity of Marburg cases — annual global figures are usually in the single digits — means that when an outbreak occurs, global health officials are unequipped to handle it.

According to the Marburg virus vaccine consortium (MARVAC), it could take months for effective vaccines and therapeutics to become available.

Vaccines have been developed by non-profits Sabin Vaccine Institute, the International AIDS Vaccine Initiative, and Public Health Vaccines, as well as pharmaceutical giants Emergent Biosolutions and Janssen. The MARVAC team identified 28 vaccine candidates that could potentially be effective against the virus, pointing to five in particular as vaccines to be studied.

According to the Mail, the panel of experts said trialing these vaccines may be impossible, however. A vaccine trial should include at least 150 cases; prior to this outbreak, there had been 30 recorded cases around the world from 2007 to 2022.  

A vaccine to stem this outbreak is therefore highly unlikely, the panel said.

The nine cases in Equatorial Guinea were detected in the western province of Kie Ntem.

The Marburg virus is transmitted to humans by fruit bats and spreads through direct contact with the bodily fluids of infected people, surfaces and materials, according to the WHO.

Symptoms appear abruptly and include high fever, severe headache and severe malaise. Many patients develop severe hemorrhagic symptoms within seven days and bleeding from multiple areas, including the nose, gums and vagina, can occur.

The disease was first detected in 1967 after simultaneous outbreaks in the German cities of Marburg and Frankfurt, and in Belgrade, Serbia.

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An outbreak of the deadly Marburg virus prompted the World Health Organization (WHO) to convene an "urgent meeting" Tuesday to discuss accelerating the development and production of vaccines and therapeutics for the disease.
marburg virus, who, public health, vaccines
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2023-41-14
Tuesday, 14 February 2023 07:41 PM
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