East African states are on high alert as a severe viral hemorrhagic fever spate in humans grips Tanzania.
Tanzania confirmed its first-ever cases of Marburg on Tuesday, following the deaths of five of eight people in Bukoba district, Kagera region, who developed symptoms that included fever, vomiting, bleeding, and renal failure.
“Our public health laboratory results have confirmed that this disease is caused by Marburg virus,” Health Minister Ummy Mwalimu said
On the other hand, the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (Africa CDC) disclosed that this is the first time a confirmed case of MVD is reported in Tanzania. Kagera region is located in north-western Tanzania, bordered by Uganda to the north, Rwanda to the west, and Burundi to the south.
The Africa CDC states that the high population mobility within the region poses a risk of cross-border spread.
“These emerging and re-emerging infectious diseases are a sign that the health security of the continent needs to be strengthened to cope with the disease threats,” Ahmed Ogwell Ouma, Ag Director of Africa CDC.
MVD is a highly fatal, zoonotic haemorrhagic disease caused by the Marburg virus.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) says Marburg and Ebola viruses are both members of the Filoviridae family (filovirus). Though caused by different viruses, the two diseases are clinically similar. Both diseases are rare and can cause outbreaks with high fatality rates.
Human-to-human transmission occurs through direct contact with body fluids from infected persons or contact with equipment and other materials contaminated with infectious blood or tissues, body fluids of infected people, and contaminated surfaces or materials.
The World Health Organization applauded Tanzania’s quick action and transparency.
“The efforts by Tanzania’s health authorities to establish the cause of the disease is a clear indication of the determination to effectively respond to the outbreak,” said Dr Matshidiso Moeti, WHO regional director for Africa, in a statement.
Moeti further said Tanzania is well-versed in responding to health emergencies. COVID-19, cholera and dengue have broken out there within the past three years, WHO noted.
“The lessons learnt and progress made during other recent outbreaks should stand the country in good stead as it confronts this latest challenge,” Moeti said.
Currently, there are no vaccines or antiviral treatments approved for MVD. However, supportive care – rehydration with oral or intravenous fluids – and treatment of specific symptoms improve survival.
Chronology of major Marburg virus disease outbreaks
|Year||Country||Cases||Deaths||Case fatality Rate|
|2008||United States of America (ex-Uganda)||1||0||0%|
|1998 to 2000||Democratic Republic of the Congo||154||128||83%|