Health Ministry advices personal hygiene to combat Marburg virus disease

As is the case of preventive measures for CoVID-19 of practising personal hygiene; observing social distance and strict hand washing, the same applies for the Marburg virus disease that has been detected in Kateta region of north west Tanzania and had claimed 5 lives.

Marburg is a zoonotic — an infectious disease that is transmitted between species from animals to humans or from humans to animals —caused by Marburg virus in the same family as Ebola virus, which causes similar diseases which is severe and fatal.

The virus is initially transmitted to people from fruit bats

A public alert from Secretary for Health, Dr. Charles Mwansambo, dated March 23, said signs and symptoms include unexplained bleeding through the eyes; nose; gums; ears; anus and skin; vomiting with blood; joint and muscle pain; high fever; headache, among others.

Case fatality rate is around 50% and varies from 24% to 88% with an average rate often above 89%.

Marburg virus spreads through contact with:

* Blood or body fluids (urine, saliva, sweat, faeces, vomit and semen;

* Breast milk of a person who is sick with or has died from Marburg virus disease; and

* Objects contaminated with body fluids from a person who is sick or has died from the disease.

“Although there is neither a vaccine nor specific treatment approved for Marburg virus disease, supporting management like rehydration, pain relief and other forms of symptomatic treatment improve survival,” says the statement.

To take care of themselves from contracting the disease, the public is being asked to:

* Avoid close physical contact with bare hands;

* Gloves and appropriate personal protective equipment should be worn when taking care of patients at home;

* Hand washing with soap and water; and

* Safe and dignified burial of suspected or confirmed Marburg deaths.

“The Ministry of Health has capacity in all points of entry to screen and detect all cases suspected of a disease of public health concern, including Marburg and manage them according to standard guidelines.

“The Ministry, in collaboration with the World Health Organization (WHO) and Africa Centres for Disease Control & Prevention (Africa CDC), will continue to monitor the situation in Tanzania and in the region and update the public accordingly.”

In its report of the outbreak last week, UK’s The GuardIan, the disease was detected through contact tracing of approximately 161 people and the Tanzania government quickly deployed an emergency response team to the area while alerting neighbouring countries to step up surveillance

No cases had yet been reported outside Kagera and WHO’s regional director for Africa, Matshidiso Moeti is quoted as saying: “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.”

The Guardian also reported that the outbreak in Tanzania — comes just a month after Equatorial Guinea confirmed it’s own cases and director for Africa CDC, Ahmed Ogwell Ouma is quoted as saying: “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.

“We urge members of the public to continue sharing information in a timely manner with the authorities to enable a most effective response.”

Marburg virus disease was first discovered in 1967 in Marburg and Frankfurt in Germany and Belgrade, Serbia and the worst outbreak was in Angola in 2004-2005, where there were 252 cases and 227 deaths.

The virus is initially transmitted to people from fruit bats, and then from person to person through body fluids or contaminated objects. Family members and health workers are particularly vulnerable to infection.

Symptoms of the disease can range from fever, nausea and rash at the onset, to jaundice and severe weight loss as the disease progresses. It has an incubation period of up to 21 days.

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