Marburg virus kills five in Tanzania

Marburg virus kills five in Tanzania

The deadly Marburg virus has reached Tanzania, infecting eight people. The virus can cause internal bleeding, fever, kidney failure and vomiting. The outbreak is being closely monitored by the World Health Organisation, who are helping authorities track the 161 suspected contacts of the patients, five of whom have died.

The US Centre for Disease Control describes the virus as “extremely rare”, but any detection of Marburg, first identified in Uganda in 1967, is of great concern because a high percentage of those infected do not survive ― in some outbreaks, nearly 90 per cent of infected people died.

That statistic originated after a particularly severe outbreak in Angola in 2005, where 329 of the 374 cases proved fatal.

Tanzania is the second African country this year to report its first Marburg outbreak after Equatorial Guinea in February detected the illness. Eleven deaths there are suspected to have been caused by the virus, which belongs to the same family as the one that causes Ebola. In July last year, Ghana announced its first outbreak.

A WHO risk assessment in September showed that Tanzania is at high to very high risk for infectious disease outbreaks because is shares borders with several countries, including the African Great Lakes region.

Still, Tanzania has recently had to respond to other health emergencies including cholera and dengue and the systems put in place to handle these will help, said Matshidiso Moeti, the WHO’s regional director for Africa.

While there are no vaccines or antiviral treatments approved to treat the virus, survival improves with supportive care such as rehydration with oral or intravenous fluids and treatment of specific symptoms.

In Equatorial Guinea, where the virus was identified last month, the WHO said it had redeployed teams who worked on contact tracing of anyone who had been close to infected people, providing them with new equipment to stay safe and assess patients.

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