Deadly Marburg Virus Spreads to Tanzania for the First Time

Tanzania reported its first outbreak of the deadly Marburg virus after eight people developed symptoms including fever, vomiting, bleeding and kidney failure.

Testing by the east African country confirmed the presence of the highly virulent disease that causes hemorrhagic fever, the World Health Organization said in a statement late Tuesday. Five of the eight cases in Tanzania’s northwest Kagera region have died and another 161 contacts have been identified and are being monitored, the WHO said.

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 of last year, Ghana announced its first outbreak.

Read More: What Is Marburg Virus?

A WHO risk assessment in September showed that Tanzania is at high to very high risk for infectious disease outbreaks as its borders span 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.

Marburg has a fatality rate as high as 88%. 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.

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Contributor: Janice Kew/Bloomberg