State: It’s Marburg but manageable

THE mysterious disease reported in Maruku and Kanyangereko villages of Bukoba District Council in Kagera Region last week is Marburg virus disease, the government has confirmed.

The Minister for Health, Ms Ummy Mwalimu told journalists in Dar es Salaam on Tuesday investigations carried out by the National Laboratory confirmed on the samples from the patients showed it is Marburg viral disease.

She however said that there should be no cause for alarm as the disease is manageable and the government can contain it. The viral disease has far been contained from further spreading within the reported locality.

The minister said since the disease was reported on Thursday last week five people out of eight confirmed cases have died.

“We extended recognition to the people of Kagera for availing timely information of suspected symptoms,” noted Ms Mwalimu stressing on the need for the public to be alert and report any symptom of the disease to a nearby hospital or dispensary.

However, three of the reported cases are continuing with treatment as the government continues with contact tracing of 161 individuals within the region, she said.

Ms Mwalimu said that there is no need to worry because the viral disease is not new. It was reported several times in neighboring Uganda in 2017, 2014, 2012, and  2007,  DRC  from 1998 to 2,000 , America and Europe.

“There is no cause for alarm. We will collaborate with our neigbours to make sure that those who will be detected with the disease are given timely treatment,” the minister insisted.

She called upon the public to take preventive measures and report individuals with symptoms including fever, headaches and severe bleeding in various open body parts.

Other symptoms include vomiting, diarrhea and dysfunction of the kidney, she said noting that there is no specific treatment for Marburg virus disease buy supportive hospital therapy is done on the symptoms.

“The Marburg virus is transmitted from one human to another through direct contact with body fluids from infected persons or contact with equipment and other materials contaminated with infectious blood or tissues, infected blood and body fluids of infected people.

Infection can also occur from animals to human beings in the case a person eats or touches the corpses of infected animals,” said Ms Mwalimu.

She noted that on Thursday last week the Ministry reported individuals bearing symptoms including fever, bleeding in various body parts and kidney failures in Maruku and Kanyangereko of Bukoba District Council in Kagera Region.

According to reports from the World Health Organisation (WHO) the disease was first confirmed in Marburg, Germany in 1967. At some point the disease has also been reported in various African and European countries.

Besides, she urged care takers and health attendants to effectively take preventive measures and health infection prevention and control at all times.

On her part, Prof Tumaini Nagu, Chief Medical Officer, stated that the first patient diagnosed with the disease came from Goziba Island in Lake Victoria and arrived at Bukoba District Council, where he became ill.

Other patients who contracted this disease, she said, included four members of the same family and two health workers.

“We insist on health workers following guidelines and procedures to protect themselves from infectious diseases, whether or not they know what the patient is suffering from,” she said.

Prof Nagu said that preventive measures include following hand washing guidelines, using sanitizers and avoiding contact with patients who are bleeding, diarrhoeic or vomiting.

When you have to attend to a patient with these symptoms, you must wear gloves, she said.

The CMO said for all confirmed patient deaths, the community should work with experts to ensure that those who died of this disease are buried in a dignified but safe manner to prevent further infection.

On his part the World Health Organisation (WHO) Country Representative, Dr Zabulon Yoti commended the government for quick response in detecting the disease and ensuring that the public is informed.

“This doesn’t go for nothing, its shows that there is a very good coordination in the country with a very clear leadership bringing all of us together,” Dr Yoti said.

He said that the public should not be worried about the disease because it is not the first time that the Marburg is reported in Africa.

“The disease has happened in a number of times in our neighboring Uganda and it usually controlled it with strong community involvement,” Dr Yoti said.

He called upon community members to join hands with the government to make that the contacts are identified and those who need care are given the service earlier enough.

He further explained that in the past one year WHO in collaboration with the government   worked a lot to make sure that Tanzania has internal capacity.

“We have trained a number of people who required personal protective equipment and then we have laboratory which is able to confirm our cases from within the country,” he said.

He expressed WHO commitment to work closely with the government to make sure that there are no gaps in the response.

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