By Beyza Binnur Donmez
GENEVA (AA) - The World Health Organization (WHO) has offered further support to the government of Tanzania over Marburg virus outbreak, Director-General Tedros Ghebreyesus said on Thursday.
Noting that Tanzania confirmed its first known cases of Marburg virus disease on Tuesday, Tedros told a news conference: "So far, eight cases have been confirmed, including five deaths."
He added that more than 160 contacts have been identified and are being monitored.
National responders, trained jointly by the WHO and the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, have been sent to the affected area to conduct additional investigations, keep track of contacts, and deliver clinical treatment, he said.
According to Tedros, the first samples were tested at a mobile lab that was established as a result of work funded by WHO last year to get ready for outbreaks of viral hemorrhagic fever, including Ebola and Marburg, which allowed Tanzania to confirm the outbreak.
A month ago, Equatorial Guinea also reported a Marburg outbreak and currently the country has nine confirmed and 20 probable cases, he said, adding that WHO also deployed experts to the country to support the government’s response.
Marburg is a member of the same virus family as Ebola, exhibits comparable symptoms, spreads among people in a similar manner, and, like Ebola, has a very high fatality rate. Although there are no approved Marburg vaccines or treatments, WHO is leading an attempt to assess potential vaccines and treatments in light of the outbreak.
"In the meantime, we are not defenseless," he assured, saying careful contact tracing, isolation and supportive care are "powerful tools" to prevent transmission and save lives.
Marburg virus was first recognized in 1967, when outbreaks of hemorrhagic fever occurred simultaneously in labs in the German town of Marburg, as well as in Belgrade in former Yugoslavia.