Nigeria on High Alert Following Incidence of Marburg Virus in West Africa

Onyebuchi Ezigbo

The Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) has declared a disease epidemic emergency in the country following the outbreak of Marburg virus disease (MVD) and its detection in West Africa.

Marburg disease was recently detected in Ghana. Due to the development, the NCDC said that it has heightened surveillance at the border and all other entries points to the country.

However, the NCDC said both importation of the disease and its potential impact on Nigeria’s population would be moderate.

In a statement issued yesterday by the NCDC, it noted that given the proximity of Ghana to Nigeria as well as the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) alert, it has set up, “multi-sectoral National Emerging Viral Haemorrhagic Diseases Working Group (EVHDWG) that coordinates preparedness efforts for MVD, and other emerging viral haemorrhagic diseases.”

The statement signed by the Director General of NCDC, Dr. Ifedayo Adetifa said a rapid risk assessment had been conducted to guide in-country preparedness activities.

“NCDC is aware of the declaration of an outbreak of MVD in Ghana confirmed by the WHO on the 17th of July 2022.

“Based on available data, the overall risk of both importation of the disease and its potential impact on the Nigerian population is said to be moderate as assessed by NCDC experts and partners given the proximity (same region), high traffic from Ghana and countries that share borders with Ghana, the incubation period of 21 days of the virus, heightened surveillance at point of entry, Nigeria’s capacity to respond to the outbreak in country and the fact that persons with MVD transmit the virus when they become symptomatic unlike for SARS-CoV-2 that causes COVID-19 that can also be transmitted by infected persons without symptoms.”

According to NCDC, this would be the second time the zoonotic disease has been detected in West Africa following the previous incidence in Guinea in August 2021.

“The cases were reported in two unrelated males – 26 and a 51 years old – who both died from the disease. The disease was first discovered in 1967 following outbreaks in Marburg and Frankfurt in Germany, and Belgrade, Serbia.

“Since then, outbreaks and sporadic cases have been reported in some African countries. 

NCDC assured that Nigeria has the capacity to test for the virus presently at the National Reference Laboratory  in Abuja and the University of Lagos Teaching Hospital laboratory Centre for Human and Zoonotic Virology.”

It also said diagnostic capacity could be scaled up to other laboratories if required.

The NCDC added that several measures were being put in place to prevent an outbreak of the disease in-country.

The measured it listed included ensuring that all persons with the symptoms described above are promptly taken to healthcare facilities for diagnosis and initiation of supportive treatment.

“Other health advisories approved by the NCDC include, strict practice of infection prevention control in the healthcare setting for all suspected patients, survivors of Marburg virus disease should practice safer sexual practices and hygiene for 12 months from onset of symptoms or until their semen test negative twice for the virus infections.”

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