Lack of Test Kits for Marburg Virus Hamper Africa’s Response to Outbreak
Dr Ahmed Ogwell Ouma, Acting Director of the Africa Centres for Disease Control.

The Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (Africa CDC) is closely monitoring Equatorial Guinea’s first-ever Marburg virus disease outbreak, Africa CDC acting director Dr Ahmed Ogwell Ouma told a media briefing on Thursday

“One big challenge we have are test kits and we are working around the clock to try and get test kits to Equatorial Guinea and also to Cameroon and Gabon, to ensure that we have a very short turnaround time for samples being tested in the laboratory,” Ouma added.

So far, one case has been confirmed and nine deaths have been reported, while there are 16 suspected cases in quarantine, and another 15 contacts are under observation.  All cases have occurred in the province of Kie Ntem in the country’s western region.

Ouma added that a key priority is to limit the spread of the virus, as well as monitor neighbouring countries such as Cameroon and Gabon for potential cross-border spillover.

As reported by Health Policy Watch, on Tuesday, the WHO received updates from five vaccine developers who have been working on candidate vaccines.  The WHO plans to convene a working group to prioritize existing vaccine candidates, with an eye to seeing if clinical trials for any of the vaccines can be launched in real time, particularly if the outbreak expands.

Diphtheria, cholera, mpox, Lassa fever, and measles are some of the other health emergencies that African countries are also grappling with, alongside COVID-19, and Ouma, a Kenyan epidemiologist, said that his center is currently monitoring up to nine different public health events.

Nigeria reported over 600 new cases of diphtheria and several African countries reported cases of cholera, including Malawi, where three-quarters of the continent’s cases have been reported.

The continent has documented over 12 million cases of COVID-19 and 256,705 deaths, a case fatality rate of 2.1%, which is double the global average, Ouma told the media. 

While the number of new cases and deaths have decreased over the past several weeks, he emphasized the importance of continuing to encourage vaccination efforts and targeted campaigns to reach more people.

“The general trend on the continent now is quite flat with the indications that we may be seeing further decreases in numbers and also in deaths,” Ouma told journalists.

Ouma noted that Africa CDC is working with governments and health organizations to provide technical assistance and medical countermeasures as needed for these and other health emergencies. He added that the organization is also continuing to promote vaccination efforts and targeted campaigns to help prevent the spread of infectious diseases.

Combat the infodemic in health information and support health policy reporting from the global South. Our growing network of journalists in Africa, Asia, Geneva and New York connect the dots between regional realities and the big global debates, with evidence-based, open access news and analysis. To make a personal or organisational contribution click here on PayPal.