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No Marburg Disease Vaccine Available for Africa's Latest Outbreak

July 18, 2022 • 8:27 am CDT
by WHO Africa
(Vax Before Travel)

The WHO Ghana announced the country's first outbreak of Marburg virus disease (MVD) after a World Health Organization (WHO) Collaborating Centre laboratory confirmed earlier test results from infected people.

One case was a 26-year-old male who died on June 27. The second case was a 51 -year-old male who reported to the same hospital on June 28 and died on the same day.

"Health authorities have responded swiftly, getting a head start preparing for a possible outbreak. This is good because Marburg can easily get out of hand without immediate and decisive action. WHO is on the ground supporting health authorities, and now that the outbreak is declared, we are marshaling more resources for the response," said Dr. Matshidiso Moeti, WHO Regional Director for Africa, in a media statement issued on July 17, 2022.

More than 90 contacts, including health workers and community members, have been identified and are being monitored.

And the WHO stated it had reached out to neighboring high-risk countries and is also on alert for MVD.

It is only the second time the zoonotic disease has been detected in West Africa.

Guinea confirmed a single case in an outbreak that was declared over in September 2021, five weeks after the initial case was detected.

Previous Marburg outbreaks in Africa have been reported in the neighboring countries of Angola, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Kenya, South Africa, and Uganda.

Case fatality rates have varied from 24% to 88% in past outbreaks depending on virus strain and the quality of case management.

Marburg is a highly infectious viral hemorrhagic fever in the same family as the more well-known Ebola virus disease.

While Ebola vaccines and preventive antibody treatments are available, the U.S. FDA has not authorized an MVD vaccine.

However, MVD vaccine candidate vaccines with phase 1 data are being evaluated.

The two candidate vaccines, based on GSK's proprietary ChAd3 platform, were licensed to the Sabin Vaccine Institute in 2019.

Marburg virus is a member of the filovirus family and is a single species (Marburg marburgvirus) that includes two viruses: Marburg and Ravn virus, with approximately 20% genetic divergence.

Marburg was named after the German city where it was first characterized in 1967.

It is transmitted to people from fruit bats and spreads among humans through direct contact with the bodily fluids of infected people, surfaces, and materials.

Illness begins abruptly, with a high fever, severe headache, and malaise. Many patients develop severe hemorrhagic signs within seven days.

WHO has been supporting a joint national investigative team in the Ashanti Region as well as Ghana's health authorities by deploying experts, making available personal protective equipment, bolstering disease surveillance, testing, tracing contacts, and working with communities to alert and educate them about the risks and dangers of the disease, and to collaborate with the emergency response teams.

In addition, a team of WHO experts will be deployed over the next couple of days to provide coordination, risk assessment, and infection prevention measures.

In addition to the new Marburg outbreak alert, the U.S. CDC recently missed Travel Advisories regarding Ghana's polio and yellow fever outbreaks.

Note: This WHO Africa announcement was curated for international travelers.