Rwanda: Rwanda On Marburg Alert After Tanzania Outbreak

Tanzania has confirmed its first ever outbreak of Marburg Virus Disease, a rare and severe hemorrhagic fever that can be transmitted to humans from fruit bats and spread among people through human-to-human contact.

The outbreak was identified after laboratory tests were carried out following reports of cases and deaths in the Bukoba district of the north-west Kagera region.

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On March 16, a mysterious disease broke out in two villages in Bukoba, where five people reportedly died and left three others in critical condition. An emergency team of health experts and the World Health Organization (WHO) were deployed to Kagera to conduct further epidemiological investigations.

According to experts, the index case is believed to have come from the island of Gozba in the center of Lake Victoria, which is known for fishing and trade. Five of the eight confirmed cases, including a health worker, have died, and the remaining three are receiving treatment.

A total of 161 contacts have been identified and are being closely monitored. No other cases or deaths have been reported from any districts other than Bukoba.

Tanzania’s Chief Medical Officer Prof. Tumaini Nagu said that the virus has been contained within the affected area and has not spread beyond it. However, neighboring Rwanda is taking precautions and monitoring the situation closely.

Dr. Edson Rwagasore, Division Manager of Public Health Surveillance, Emergency Preparedness and Response in Rwanda, said, “Despite the movement of people crossing Rusumo border, the risks of importing cases to Rwanda are low since the affected area (Bukoba) is not nearby.

We have enhanced active surveillance both at the community, health facilities, and points of entry, where temperature screening is done for all passengers coming into the country.

The government has also strengthened testing capacity for all viral hemorrhagic fevers, including Marburg, in several parts of the country to avoid any imported cases.”

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It’s worth noting that the case-fatality rate for Marburg hemorrhagic fever is between 23 and 90 percent. The recent outbreak case was confirmed in Equatorial Guinea on February 13, 2023.