Dar es Salaam. Minister of Health Ummy Mwalimu on Tuesday identified the mysterious disease that has killed at least five people in Tanzania’s north western region of Kagera as a Marburg Virus Disease.
It comes five days after Chief Medical Officer Tumaini Nagu said on March 16, 2023, that the government was investigating the disease, whose symptoms included fever, vomiting, diarrhoea and bleeding through various body openings.
Cases of the disease have been reported from Kagera’s district of Bukoba, particularly in the villages of Bulinda and Butayaibega.
During a press conference in Dar es Salaam on Tuesday, Ms Mwalimu revealed that lab tests on samples collected from the villages had confirmed the presence of the Marburg virus in the country.
“Tests conducted at our national public health laboratory have confirmed the presence of Marburg virus, which causes the Marburg Virus Disease,” Ms Mwalimu, who doubles as Tanga Urban MP (Chama cha Mapinduzi – CCM), told reporters.
Eight cases of Marburg disease have been confirmed in Tanzania, which include the death of five people, four from the same family and one health worker. So far, three people are still under hospital care, two health workers and one member of the same family.
Mwalimu said the government had conducted contract tracing to 161 people who might have come in contact with the infected person and that so far, authorities have managed to control the spread of the disease from the affected area.
According to the World Health Organization, the Marburg virus disease has an 88 per cent fatality ratio.
WHO Tanzania Country Representative Dr Zabulon Yoti has asked the public not to panic, saying Tanzania is well equipped to deal with the disease.
However, the public has been urged to take precautions against the disease by avoiding contact with infected people’s blood, secretions, organs or other bodily fluids of infected people.
WHO confirmed an outbreak of the deadly Marburg virus disease in the central African country of Equatorial Guinea on February 13, 2023. In the past, the disease was reported in the Democratic Republic of Congo and Uganda.
Its control relies on contact tracing, sample testing, patient contact monitoring, quarantines and attempts to limit or modify high-risk activities such as traditional funeral practices.