Tanzania Declares Marburg Outbreak Over
Medical teams in Tanzania react to the country’s first-ever Marburg virus case.

Tanzania declared the end of its Marburg Virus Disease outbreak on Friday, two months after the outbreak was first detected in the north-western Kagera region. 

Nine cases (eight confirmed and one probable) and six deaths were recorded in the outbreak, which was declared on 21 March after laboratory analysis confirmed that the cause of deaths and illnesses that were reported earlier in the region was Marburg.

The last confirmed case tested negative for a second time on 19 April, setting off the 42-day waiting period before the end of the outbreak could be declared.

Marburg is from the same virus family as Ebola, and very virulent and causes haemorrhagic fever. Around 88% of cases dies.

Symptoms start almost immediately, 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 between people 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, improve survival.

In Africa, previous outbreaks and sporadic cases have been reported in Angola, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ghana, Kenya, Equatorial Guinea, South Africa and Uganda.

The World Health Organization (WHO) assisted Tanzania to train responders, which had been slow to identify the disease because of a lack of laboratory facilities in the remote area where the first cases were found.

“With the investments being made to prepare for and tackle health emergencies in the region, we are responding even faster and more effectively to save lives, livelihoods and safeguard health,” said Dr Matshidiso Moeti, WHO Regional Director for Africa.

The WHO office in Tanzania also assisted the country’s efforts by deploying outbreak response experts to reinforce surveillance, testing, infection prevention and control, contact tracing, treatment and community engagement. 

Additionally, with partners, WHO shipped nearly three tons of supplies of personal protective equipment and is also working with the Ministry of Health to support survivors of the disease.

“Thanks to these efforts, Tanzania has been able to end this outbreak and limit the potentially devastating impacts of a highly infectious disease,” Dr Moeti said.

“The outbreak in Equatorial Guinea is also expected to be declared over next week if no further cases are detected,” WHO Director General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told a media briefing on Friday.

Marburg was first identified in Marburg, Germany in 1967. Since then, there have been a limited number of outbreaks reported in Angola, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Kenya, South Africa and Uganda.

In 2023, two separate Marburg outbreaks have been reported in two countries, Equatorial Guinea and the United Republic of Tanzania.

Image Credits: WHO, WHO.

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