Marburg virus: Likelihood of case importation high in Nigeria – NCDC

by Tom Chiahemen
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The Nigeria Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (NCDC) says the likelihood of importation of the Marburg outbreak to Nigeria is high due to the direct flight between Nigeria and Equatorial Guinea.

The Director General, NCDC, Dr Ifedayo Adetifa, said this on Friday in a statement he made available to the News Agency of Nigeria(NAN) in Abuja.

NAN reports that like Ebola, the Marburg virus originates in bats and spreads between people via close contact with the bodily fluids of infected people, or surfaces, like contaminated bed sheets.

Meanwhile, Marburg disease is not as frequently reported as Ebola, both diseases can cause outbreaks with high death rates.

Adetifa said that this was because of the proximity of Equatorial Guinea to Nigeria.

He said that the extent of the Marburg outbreak in Equatorial Guinea has not yet been ascertained.

He said that based on available data, the overall risk of importation of the Marburg virus and the impact on the health of Nigerians has been assessed as moderate.

According to him, the likelihood of spread in the country following importation is high due to the gatherings and travel associated with upcoming national elections.

He said that the agency is aware of the first-ever outbreak of Marburg Virus Disease (MVD) announced in Equatorial Guinea on Feb. 13, 2023.

“The death of nine people prompted laboratory testing on samples of individuals experiencing symptoms of fever, fatigue, blood-stained vomit, and diarrhoea in two communities of the country’s western Kie Ntem province.

“So far, one confirmed case, nine deaths and 16 suspected cases of MVD have been reported in Equatorial Guinea.

“MVD is a Viral Haemorrhagic Fever (VHF) caused by a virus from the same family as the Ebola virus disease. The primary route of transmission is from fruit bats to humans. Human-to-human transmission is possible through contact with the body fluids of an infected person.

“Currently, there are no available vaccines or therapeutics for the prevention and treatment of this strain of the virus.

“The early initiation of supportive treatment has been shown to significantly reduce the probability of death due to MVD,” he explained.

He said that there are currently no cases of Marburg virus disease in the country, but assured that the NCDC, relevant Ministries, Departments, Agencies, and partners have taken proactive measures to mitigate the risk of cross-border importation.

He said that the multi-sectoral National Emerging Viral Haemorrhagic Disease Technical Working Group (NEVHD TWG) led by NCDC, is responsible for coordinating the national response to all VHFs across pillars including surveillance, laboratory, case management and risk communication.

“The NEVHD TWG like it has always done in the past following news of MVD outbreaks conducted a dynamic risk assessment to inform Nigeria’s preparedness following this recent outbreak in Equatorial Guinea on February 17, 2023,” he explained.

The NCDC boss said that the case fatality rate of MVD ranges between 24 to 88 per cent.

“MVD does not currently have an effective drug for treatment or a licensed vaccine for prevention.

“The risk assessment also shows that Nigeria has the capacity – technical, human (health workforce), and diagnostic – required to respond effectively in the event of an outbreak.

“Nigeria has also responded to viral “haemorrhagic fever epidemics like the Ebola Outbreak in 2014 and built up her preparedness and response capabilities over the years,” he said.

He said that the country has the diagnostic capacity to test for MVD presently at the National Reference Laboratory (NRL) in Abuja and the University of Lagos Teaching Hospital laboratory Centre for Human and Zoonotic Virology (CHAZVY).

He, however, said that the diagnostic capacity would be scaled up to other laboratories in cities with important points of entry (POE) and others as may be required.

“An effective response system is in place with the availability of control capacities (trained rapid response teams, and an effective infection prevention and control programme) to limit the risk of spread in the event of a single imported case,” he said.

According to him, several measures have been taken to strengthen preparedness for the MVD in Nigeria. These include: The NCDC Incident Coordination Centre (ICC) has been activated to alert mode.

“Development of an emergency incident action plan for MVD has commenced. A review to update case definitions for MVD if necessary. MVD guidelines are currently under development.

“The NRL and CHAZVY can promptly test and diagnoses cases of MVD if needed. Follow-up of persons of interest (POIs) on arrival from Equatorial Guinea has commenced,” he said. (NAN)

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