Sunday 26 March 2023

Marburg virus kills 5 in Tanzania; over 100 feared to be infected

  The World Health Organization (WHO) has confirmed the death of five individuals in Tanzania due to Marburg virus, with three others being treated in hospital. The cases were reported in the northern city of Bukoba, Kagera province, which is home to 120,000 people.

More than 100 residents were also feared to be infected with the deadly pathogen that has a 90 percent kill rate. They are now being monitored by health workers.

Marburg is an Ebola-like disease that causes fever, vomiting and major bleeding from the eyeballs, nose and gums. It is endemic to areas of central Africa, including Angola and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and has previously cropped up in Kenya.

The cases were diagnosed following testing carried out in the country’s main laboratory in the capital Dar Es Salaam.

A rapid response team, which includes workers from the WHO, had been deployed to contain the outbreak.

“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 Matshidiso Moeti, WHO’s regional director for Africa.

“The lessons learned, and progress made during other recent outbreaks, should stand the country in good stead as it confronts this latest challenge.”

While Tanzania had not previously faced Marburg, Moeti noted that the country had recently coped with a number of health emergencies, including Wuhan coronavirus (COVID-19), cholera and dengue fever.

WHO: Marburg virus is next big pandemic threat

The WHO considers Marburg virus as the next big pandemic threat.  

It can jump into humans from fruit bats that live across central Africa and can also be spread between people via contact with bodily fluids from an infected person. People can also catch the disease by touching towels or surfaces that have also come into contact with an infected person.

Marburg virus can incubate in people it infects for two to 21 days before causing symptoms. Warning signs initially look similar to other tropical diseases like Ebola and malaria.

Infected patients often develop deep-set eyes and expressionless faces. In later stages, the virus triggers bleeding from multiple orifices, including the nose, gums, eyes and vagina.

There are no vaccines or treatments approved for the virus, with doctors instead having to rely on drugs to ease symptoms and fluids to hydrate patients.

Just weeks ago, Equatorial Guinea also confirmed its first outbreak of the Marburg virus. The WHO announced that at least nine people were killed by the disease.

The small Central African country quarantined more than 200 people and restricted movement in its Kie-Ntem province after detecting the virus.

Local health authorities initially reported an unknown illness causing hemorrhagic fever cases on February 7. They sent samples to a laboratory in Senegal, which was able to confirm one as positive for the Marburg virus disease.

According to Equatorial Guinea Health Minister Mitoha Ondo’o Ayekaba, the deaths were initially linked to a funeral ceremony in the Kie-Ntem province’s Nsok-Nsomo district.

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