Tanzania Confirms First-Ever Marburg Virus Outbreak
DAR ES SALAAM (GO) - Tanzania has confirmed eight cases of Marburg, a high-death viral hemorrhagic fever with symptoms broadly similar to those of Ebola, in its first-ever outbreak, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).
The WHO said in a late Tuesday statement that the confirmation by Tanzania’s national public laboratory followed the death of five people in the northwest Kagera region who developed symptoms, which include fever, vomiting, bleeding and renal failure. Among the dead was a health worker, WHO said. The three who survived were getting treatment, with 161 contacts being monitored.
“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 Matshidiso Moeti, WHO regional director for Africa.
“We are working with the government to rapidly scale up control measures to halt the spread of the virus.”
With a death rate of as high as 88 percent, Marburg is from the same virus family responsible for Ebola and is transmitted to people from fruit bats. It then spreads through contact with bodily fluids of infected people.
WHO is supporting the Ministry of Health to deploy an emergency team to Kagera to carry out further epidemiological investigations. The emergency team will focus on active case finding in the community and local health care facilities to identify more contacts and provide them with appropriate care.
While Tanzania has never previously recorded a Marburg case, it has had to respond to other health emergencies including COVID-19, cholera and dengue within the past three years. A strategic risk assessment conducted by WHO in September 2022 showed that the country is at high to very high risk for infectious diseases outbreaks.
“The lessons learnt, and progress made during other recent outbreaks should stand the country in good stead as it confronts this latest challenge,” said Dr Moeti. “We will continue to work closely with the national health authorities to save lives.”
Marburg virus disease is highly virulent and causes haemorrhagic fever, with a fatality ratio of up to 88%. It is in the same family as the virus that causes Ebola virus disease. Illness caused by Marburg virus begins abruptly, with high fever, severe headache and severe malaise. Many patients develop severe haemorrhagic 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.
There are no vaccines or antiviral treatments approved to treat the virus. However, supportive care – rehydration with oral or intravenous fluids – and treatment of specific symptoms, improves survival.
The WHO has called on the global community to support Tanzania's efforts to contain the outbreak and prevent its spread to neighboring countries.