WHO Deploys Emergency Response Team In Tanzania’s Marburg-hit Region

The World Health Organisations (WHO) is deploying an emergency team to Kagera region in Tanzania to carry out further epidemiological investigations following an outbreak of Marburg Virus Disease (MVD)—the first ever outbreak of the viral disease in the country.

Dr.Matshidiso Moeti, the WHO Regional Director for Africa said 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.

“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,” she said in a statement released 21, March 2023.

The WHO 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.

The Ministry of Health in Tanzania confirmed an outbreak of MVD in the Lake Zone district of Bukoba on Tuesday 21 March 2023, about 4 days after reports of a “possibly contagious disease” emerged in the district, killing five people, including a health worker, who developed symptoms of fever, vomiting, bleeding from various body openings and kidney failure.

The government says it is currently monitoring 160 people who may have been in contact with the infected persons.

Also read: Tanzania Confirms Marburg Virus Outbreak

“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.”

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. 

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.

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