Five people have died in Tanzania from the Marburg virus disease following an outbreak in the country’s north-west Kagera region, the World Health Organization (WHO) said Tuesday.
The first-ever cases of Marburg virus disease in the country were confirmed after Tanzania’s health authorities carried out laboratory tests on a reported strange disease which had infected eight people.
The patients had developed symptoms including fever, vomiting, bleeding and renal failure.
“Five of the eight cases, including a health worker, have died and the remaining three are receiving treatment,” the WHO said.
“A total of 161 contacts have been identified and are being monitored.”
Matshidiso Moeti, the WHO’s regional director for Africa, said efforts by Tanzania’s health authorities to establish the cause of the disease signified the determination to effectively respond to the outbreak.
“We are working with the government to rapidly scale up control measures to halt the spread of the virus and end the outbreak as soon as possible,” Moeti said.
The WHO said it is supporting the country’s Health Ministry to deploy an emergency team to Kagera to carry out further epidemiological investigations.
Marburg virus disease, which is in the same family as the virus that causes Ebola, is a highly virulent disease that causes hemorrhagic fever, with a fatality ratio of up to 88%.
Illness caused by the Marburg virus begins abruptly, with high fever, severe headaches and severe malaise.
Many patients develop severe hemorrhagic symptoms within seven days, with no vaccines or antiviral treatments approved yet to treat the virus.
The virus is transmitted to people from fruit bats and spreads among humans through direct contact with the bodily fluids of infected people, surfaces and materials.