A New Outbreak Tanzania Has Recorded an Outbreak of the Marburg Virus

Marburg virus disease begins with a high fever, severe headache and severe malaise. There are no vaccines or antiviral treatments approved to treat it. However, treatments like rehydration with oral or intravenous fluids and treatment of specific symptoms improve survival rates.

On 21 March, the Republic of Tanzania declared its first-ever outbreak of Marburg virus disease (MVD) after identifying eight confirmed cases in the Bukoba district, Kagera region, north-west Tanzania. There have been five reported deaths—including a healthcare worker, while three are receiving treatment at designated treatment centres. 161 people have been identified and are being monitored.

Marburg 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. The virus spreads between people through close contact only after they show symptoms. It cannot be detected before patients are symptomatic and is transmitted through infected body fluids like blood. MVD is not airborne. The incubation time, or time between infection and the onset of symptoms, ranges from two to 21 days and typically falls between five and ten days.

The disease has a fatality ratio of up to 88 per cent. It begins with high fever, severe headache and severe malaise. Many patients develop severe haemorrhagic symptoms within seven days. There are no vaccines or antiviral treatments approved to treat it. However, treatments like rehydration with oral or intravenous fluids and treatment of specific symptoms improve survival rates.

Marburg Virus Disease was first recorded in Europe in 1967 after laboratory workers in Marburg and Frankfurt in Germany and Belgrade, Yugoslavia (present-day Serbia) were infected after handling infected monkeys imported from Uganda. In Africa, outbreaks have occurred and been reported in Uganda, Kenya, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Angola. In 2022, Ghana recorded two positive fatal cases; the outbreak was declared over after 42 days had passed without any new cases. Tanzania and Equatorial Guinea are the latest countries to tackle an outbreak of the virus; Equatorial Guinea confirmed its first-ever outbreak of Marburg virus disease in February with one confirmed case and 24 suspected cases.

On 13 March, scientists— Adam Humey, Elke Mühlberger, and Judith Olejnik—attributed the increase and spread of viruses, including the EbolaSudan viruses, and Monkeypox to human encroachment on previously undisturbed animal habitats and alterations to wildlife ecosystems due to climate change.

In response to the outbreak, regional and global health bodies have rallied around Tanzania. Ahmed Ouma, the acting director of the Africa Center for Disease Control said it has deployed a team of experts to Tanzania to support response efforts in the country and to understand the cross-border context of the outbreak as this would guide regional surveillance strategies in containing the outbreak.

According to Ouma:

Africa CDC remains committed to support Tanzania and her neighbours to arrest this outbreak as soon as possible. We urge members of the public to continue sharing information in a timely manner with the authorities to enable a most effective response. 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

The World Health Organization (WHO) has deployed an emergency team to Kagera for epidemiological investigations. The Kagera region is located in north-west Tanzania and is bordered by Uganda to the North, Rwanda to the West and Burundi to the South West.

Kenya and Uganda have increased surveillance on their borders with Tanzania. Kenya’s health director general, Patrick Amoth, has urged the public to report any notable increase in people who have a high fever and recently travelled to Tanzania. Uganda has ordered immediate screening and testing at its southern border and health teams have been put on high alert at border crossings in the districts of Kyotera and Isingiro

Recommended Reading

Here are some Republic articles to read for more context on the Marburg virus::

The New Ebola?
Dealing with National Health Emergencies in Nigeria
The Monkeypox Outbreak

The views, thoughts, and opinions published in The Republic belong solely to the author and are not necessarily the views of The Republic or its editors. We want to hear what you think about this article. Submit a letter to the editors by writing to [email protected].