The Department of Health (DOH) assured the public on Wednesday that it is monitoring developments on emerging diseases, after the World Health Organization confirmed the first-ever outbreak of Marburg virus disease in Equatorial Guinea.
The DOH noted that the global risk of Marburg virus disease is low.
“The public can rest assured that the DOH through the Epidemiology Bureau continues to provide surveillance and monitoring activities of emerging diseases,” the DOH said in a statement.
“At present, there is no current risk assessment provided by WHO and the global risk of the Marburg virus disease is low,” it added.
Infectious Disease Specialist Dr. Rontgene Solante does not expect the Marburg Virus to be as transmissible as COVID, but advises that the country to also monitor arrivals from areas where an outbreak of the Marburg virus was reported.
"I am not worried about the outbreak. Primarily, because the source of this virus, which is the fruit bats, is endemic in those regions of Africa… History tells us that since 1967, wherein the first Marburg virus us discovered in Germany, we already have around 15 outbreaks, and majority of these outbreaks are only confined in sub-Saharan Africa because of particular fruit bat that carries the virus, and people are exposed to this bat,” he explained.
“I think the concern here is if there are people traveling from the particular country and goes to another country. Remember the incubation period for this is from as short as 2 days to as long as 21 days. So there are people that may be exposed and go back to their country, and they might manifest infection,” Solante added.
“It is really important for us to monitor this particular outbreak because we also have OFWs in this country. Then part of that, from the Bureau of Quarantine should look at it in terms of screening arrivals from these countries,” he noted.
“This will not be something like COVID-19 because it’s a respiratory tract type of virus and it’s easily transmissible. The source of infection is a type of bat endemic in a region. The only threat here is if one person comes from that country and travels to another country then it can also cause infections. But I don’t think it can cause a massive infection compared to COVID-19,” Solante stressed.
Marburg virus is in the same virus family that causes Ebola. Both are known to cause severe viral hemorrhagic fever in humans. Cases of MVD are rare, but outbreaks occasionally arise in Africa, where the viruses circulate among some populations of fruit bats, specifically Rousettus bats.
Human-to-human transmission of Marburg virus is primarily associated with direct contact with blood and/or bodily fluids of infected persons. Burial ceremonies that involve direct contact with the body of the deceased can also contribute in the transmission of Marburg virus.
“There is no specific treatment for Marburg virus disease. However, to reduce the risk of wildlife-to-human transmissions of the disease, such as through contact with fruit bats, monkeys among others, the public is advised to wear gloves and other appropriate protective clothing including masks when doing work, research activities or tours in mines or caves inhabited by fruit bat colonies,” the DOH said.
“Everyone should continue following minimum health protocols at all times which helps prevent spread of transmissible diseases. Communities are likewise encouraged to practice safe and dignified burial processes to avoid potential spread of hazardous waste in addition to the proper use of appropriate PPEs by health workers attending,” it reminded the public.
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