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Uganda confirms a case of deadly Marburg virus

BY Tom Mugisha, tom.mugisha@alleastafrica.com

KAMPALA — The Ministry of Health has confirmed a case of a deadly Marburg virus disease in the eastern part of the country.

Health Minister Ruth Aceng told the media Thursday at a press conference in Kampala that the laboratory tests conducted by the Uganda Virus Research Institute had confirmed one person died of the disease, a type of Viral Hemorrhagic fever on Tuesday.

“Preliminary field investigations indicated that prior to her death; the deceased had nursed her 42-year-old brother, who had died on September 25, 2017 with similar signs and symptoms,” she said.

The victim was identified as a 50-year-old female from Chemuron village, Moyok Parish, Moyok sub county, Kween District in eastern Uganda.

“She presented with signs and symptoms suggestive of a Viral Hemorrhagic Fever (VHF) and unfortunately passed on during the night of October 11, 2017 at Kapchorwa Hospital, having been referred from Kaproron Health Center IV in Kween district,” the Minister said.

Marburg Virus Disease (MVD) is caused by the Marburg virus, a rare but severe type of Viral Hemorrhagic Fever which affects both humans and non-human primates like monkeys, baboons.

The reservoir host of Marburg virus is the African fruit bat. Fruit bats infected with Marburg virus do not show obvious signs of illness. Primates (including humans) are vulnerable to contracting the Marburg virus, which is known to have a very high mortality.

“The deceased’s brother was reported to be a hunter who carried out his activities where there are caves with heavy presence of bats,” the Minister said.

Contracting disease

In Marburg outbreaks, the first person normally gets infected through contact with infected bats or animals (normally monkeys/baboons).

The Minister said once the first person (Index case) gets infected with the Marburg Virus, human to human transmission of Marburg Virus Disease (MVD) then occurs through contact with the body fluids (blood, vomitus, Urine, feces, etc) of already infected persons.

“Close contacts to already infected persons (like close family members of already infected persons) and health workers are particularly at increased risk of getting infected with the Marburg virus,” she said.

Symptoms 

A person suffering from Marburg presents with sudden onset of high-grade fever accompanied by any of the following symptoms; headache, vomiting blood, joint and muscle pains, unexplained bleeding through the body openings including the eyes, nose, gums, ears, anus and the skin.

Aceng said there is no specific treatment or vaccine available for Marburg for now, 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 Epidemiologists, Risk Communication experts, Case Management,

“Infection Control and Prevention experts, ecological environmental experts, Laboratory specialists, among others have been sent to Kween and Kapchorwa districts. 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,” she said.

An isolation ward at Kapchorwa district Hospital and Kaproron Health Center IV in Kween District have been established to handle the cases.

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