Africa CDC has confirmed that the Ministry of Health of the Republic of Tanzania declared an outbreak of Marburg virus disease (MVD) on 21st March 2023. The outbreak has been reported in Bukoba district, Kagera region, in north-western Tanzania. So far, a total of 8 confirmed cases and 5 deaths have been announced.
Marburg is a highly infectious and highly fatal zoonotic haemorrhagic disease. Africa CDC describes that human-to-human transmission occurs through “direct contact with body fluids” from infected persons or contact with materials that have been contaminated with infectious fluids. As noted by the CDC, there is no licensed vaccine or approved treatment, but “supportive management improves survival”.
The situation in Tanzania
The cases in Tanzania presented with “fever, vomiting, and bleeding from different body orifices” according to Africa CDC. Samples collected were tested positive for MVD by PCR at the National Public Health Laboratory.
This is the first confirmed incidence of MVD in Tanzania, and the high population mobility within the region poses a risk of cross-border transmission to neighbouring countries: Uganda, Rwanda, and Burundi.
The Ministry of Health has reportedly deployed rapid response teams to support further investigations. 161 contacts have already been identified and are being monitored, with active case search, case management, and risk communication “ongoing” in affected areas. Africa CDC is also sending experts to support the local response. The importance of understanding the “cross-border context” of the outbreak has been emphasised. Tanzania is the second African Union Member State to report an active outbreak at the moment, after Equatorial Guinea declared an outbreak in February.
Dr Ahmed Ogwell Ouma, Acting Director of Africa CDC, highlighted the organisation’s commitment to supporting “Tanzania and her neighbours” to “arrest this outbreak as soon as possible”. He urged members of the public to “continue sharing information in a timely manner” to promote an “effective response”.
“These emerging and re-emerging infectious diseases are a sign that the health security of the continent needs to be strengthened to cope with the disease threats.”