Uganda on high alert after Ebola-like Marburg virus kills two

Kampala, Uganda | AFP & THE INDEPENDENT |  Two people have died from the Marburg virus in Kween District , eastern Uganda, in the country’s first outbreak of the deadly Ebola-like pathogen in three years, the health ministry said Thursday.

“Blood samples were taken from two people who have since died and were found positive for Marburg”, Uganda’s health ministry permanent secretary, Dr. Diana Atwine told AFP.

She said a team of experts had been sent to Kween district, near the Kenyan border, to contain the virus.

“At moment we don’t know if there are other people apart from the dead who have contracted the disease because the health experts are still investigating in addition to sensitising the population about the dangers of Marburg and we call for public vigilance,” she added.

One individual was a male hunter who died on September 25. His 50-year-old sister died on October 11.

“The second victim had taken care of her brother during his sickness and burial preparation rituals when we suspect she contracted the disease,” Health Minister Ruth Achieng said.

The two are the first recorded cases of Marburg in Kween district.

Uganda sends teams to Eastern Uganda

There is no specific treatment or vaccine available for Marburg, but patients are given supportive treatment which supports the natural recovery process of the body and this improves tremendously the patient’s survival chances.

The Ministry of Health has deployed a Rapid Response Team comprising of highly experienced epidemiologists, risk communication experts, case management, infection control and prevention experts, ecological environmental experts, Laboratory specialists, among others to Kween and Kapchorwa districts.

An isolation ward has also been established at the Kapchorwa District Hospital and Kaproron Health Center IV in Kween District.

“The team will support District Rapid Response Teams to investigate and assess the magnitude of the threat and to institute appropriate control measures to avert the Marburg Virus Disease threat,” the Ministry of Health said in a statement.

Ministry of Health said preparations are underway to train all health workers, particularly from Kapchorwa Hospital, and Kaproron Health Centre IV on VHF infection prevention and control.

The National Medical Stores is also delivering emergency supplies to the affected health facilities. ·

History of the virus

According to the Uganda Virus Research Institute, the first known case of Marburg in the country was in the western district of Kamwenge in 2007.

A 2012 outbreak killed 10 people and in 2014 one man died.

The Marburg virus is one of the most deadly known pathogens. Like Ebola, it is a haemorrhagic fever — it causes severe bleeding, fever, vomiting and diarrhoea. It has a 21-day incubation period.

Like Ebola, the Marburg virus is also transmitted via contact with bodily fluids and fatality rates range from 25 to 80 percent.

The name of the disease comes from the city of Marburg in central Germany, where the virus was first identified in 1967 among workers who had been exposed to infected African green monkeys at a research lab.


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