The World Health Organization (WHO) is claiming that the cases of Marburg virus, a severe hemorrhagic disease, are going unreported in the country of Equatorial Guinea. Throughout this outbreak, which is believed to have begun in early January, the ruling class has been slow to release updates.
Last week the WHO expressed fears there may be undetected chains of transmission meaning people are not being tracked and traced to the masters’ content. “WHO is aware of additional cases and we have asked the government to report these cases officially to WHO,” Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said during the WHO’s weekly press conference.
So far, Equatorial Guinea has acknowledged nine laboratory-confirmed cases, seven of whom have died. In addition, 20 other people with links to the confirmed cases died without being tested; they are considered probable cases.
The cases that have been reported to date have come from three provinces, spanning a distance of more than 90 miles. Some of the most recent cases have been in Bata, the country’s second-largest city. Bata, with a population of more than 455,000, is a bustling port located on the Gulf of Guinea, according to a report by STAT News.
Other countries nearby are beginning to take notice of the virus’ potential spread.
Abdi Mahamud, the WHO’s director of alert and response coordination, said that neither he nor Tedros will reveal how many additional cases the agency has learned of. Mahamud suggested the key concern at this point is not the overall number of cases, but the distance over which they are spread. “This outbreak, as it stands, is larger and we may be seeding more provinces,” he said.
Mike Ryan, the executive director of the WHO’s health emergencies program, expressed some frustration about the reporting delay. He said countries have a “responsibility” not only to report to the WHO but to their own people. “Any delay in releasing information about lab-confirmed cases, especially when it relates to newly affected areas, prevents the process of alerting communities and having them take action to protect themselves and their families,” Ryan said.
Marburg infection is a hemorrhagic disease and should be taken seriously. While rare, it is transmitted by contact with bodily fluids and is not airborne. However, the case fatality rate is between 23 and 90%.