Fatal Marburg Disease Outbreak Confirmed in Tanzania
The World Health Organization (WHO) today announced the Republic of Tanzania had confirmed its first-ever cases of Marburg Virus Disease (MVD) following reports of cases and deaths in the country’s north-west Kagera region.
Five of the eight cases, including a health worker, have died, and the remaining three are receiving treatment.
A total of 161 contacts have been identified and are being monitored as of March 21, 2023.
According to Tanzania health officials on YouTube, Tanzania’s National Public Health Laboratory analyzed samples to determine the cause of illness.
“The efforts by Tanzania’s health authorities to establish the cause of the disease clearly indicate the determination to respond to the outbreak effectively. We are working with the government to rapidly scale up control measures to halt the spread of the virus and end the outbreak as soon as possible,” said Dr. Matshidiso Moeti, WHO Regional Director for Africa, in a related press release.
WHO is supporting the Ministry of Health in deploying an emergency team to Kagera for further epidemiological investigations.
The emergency team will focus on active case finding in the community and local healthcare facilities to identify more contacts and provide them with appropriate care.
Previously, MVD cases were reported in Angola, DR Congo, Equatorial Guinea, Cameroon, Germany (1967), Ghana, Guinea, Kenya, Serbia, South Africa, and Uganda.
Equatorial Guinea confirmed an outbreak on February 13, 2023, its first-ever outbreak of MVD. The index case died in early January 2023. As of February 27, 2023, the cumulative number of MVD cases reported was 11, all fatal, and 48 close contacts were under follow-up.
MVD is highly virulent and causes hemorrhagic fever, with a fatality ratio of up to 88%, says the WHO.
Illness caused by the Marburg virus begins abruptly, with high fever, severe headache, and severe malaise. Many patients develop severe hemorrhagic symptoms within seven days.
The virus is transmitted to people from fruit bats and spreads among humans through direct contact with the bodily fluids of infected people, surfaces, and materials.
It is in the same family as the virus that causes Ebola virus disease.
Currently, no MVD vaccines or antiviral treatments are approved to treat the virus.
Tanzania is an East African country formed as a sovereign state in 1964 through the union of Tanganyika and Zanzibar, says Britannica.
To notify international travelers of potential health risks, the U.S. CDC issued a Watch - Level 1, Practice Usual Precaution regarding active MVD outbreaks in Africa on February 16, 2023.