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Nigeria at risk of the Marburg disease

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By Mercy Kelani

There is a recent outbreak of Marburg infectious disease in Ghana.

Recently, there occurred a first outbreak of a highly infectious disease, called Marburg virus, in Ghana. Following this development, and with Nigeria being a neighboring country to Ghana, the federal government has situated the Federal Ministry of Health’s Port Health Services at the borders of the country on red alert. This decision was taken by the federal government of Nigeria because medical experts believe that the country is at high risk of the virus if care is not taken.

The outbreak of the disease was confirmed in Ghana by the World Health Organization (WHO) on July 17th, 2022. The deaths of two unrelated people, who tested positive for the virus before death, confirmed the presence of the disease in a West African country. The two patients who died of the disease, according to WHO, were from the southern Ashanti region and they had symptoms of the virus which includes fever, vomiting, diarrhea, and nausea.

The recent detection is the second outbreak in West Africa.

Marburg virus is an infectious viral hemorrhagic fever that shares the same family as the Ebola virus disease. The virus currently has no vaccine but survival can be managed through supportive care such as rehydration with oral or intravenous fluids, and quick treatment of specific symptoms. WHO revealed that the virus is usually transferred to human beings through fruit bats and is transferrable among people through direct contact with body fluids of infected persons, infected materials, and infected surfaces.

According to records, the recent outbreak of the disease marks the second time of its detection in West Africa. Reports have it that on the 16th of September, 2021, five weeks after detection, Guinea recorded a single case of the outbreak. There have been previous African records of the Marburg virus outbreaks in countries like Kenya, South Africa, Angola, Uganda, and the Democratic Republic of Congo, after the first discovery of the deadly virus in 1967.

NCDC reports that Nigeria is at moderate risk of the virus.

In response to the level of risk the country is at towards the penetration of the virus, Dr. Ifedayo Adetifa, the Director-General of the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), stated that after the conduction of a risk assessment, it has been discovered that Nigeria is at moderate risk of the infectious virus, given that the country shares no direct risk with Ghana. He added that anyone travelling into the country with the virus will be detected by the port health services because the virus sickens people quickly, after infection.

Also expressing his views concerning the Ghana outbreak of the Marburg virus, a Professor of Medical Virology at the College of Medicine, University of Lagos, Prof. Sunday Omilabu, mentioned that the Giant of Africa was at great risk of the disease, due to its proximity to Ghana, and the intermingling between both countries. In addition, a Professor of Public Health, Dr. Tanimola Akande, said that the closeness between the two countries and the day-to-day massive movement of people across them, puts the nation at risk.

There should be a creation of awareness concerning the disease.

Giving preventive measures, although not well defined, against the Marburg virus, a Medical Virologist and Immunologist at the Adeleke University, Ede, Osun State, Dr. Oladipo Kolawole, mentioned that one should avoid fruit bats (Rousettus aegyptiacus) and sick primates. Also, there should be creation of awareness to aid earlier precautions against the spread of the virus. In reaction to the situation, the Nigerian Medical Association has also ordered for immediate containment measures at entry points and improved the creation of awareness of the disease.


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