UN health agency working with Ugandan authorities to combat Marburg outbreak

Dr. Mark Katz takes a sample from a woman who had contact with several members of her immediate family who later died of the fever. Photo: WHO/Christopher Black

22 October 2012 – The United Nations health agency is working with the Government of Uganda to control an outbreak of Marburg haemorrhagic fever in the African country’s western district of Kabale.

On its global alert and response webpage, the UN World Health Organization (WHO) stated yesterday that it had deployed a team of epidemiologists and logisticians to support Uganda’s Ministry of Health after blood samples from three cases tested positive for the potentially fatal disease.

Uganda’s district of Kabale, sometimes spelled Kibaale, experienced a fatal outbreak of another disease, the Ebola virus, as recently as July, killing 17 people. However, there are no indications that the two outbreaks are in anyway related, according to WHO.

Marburg is transmitted by direct contact with the blood, body fluids and tissues of infected persons or by handling ill or dead infected wild animals, such as monkeys and fruit bats.

The virus’ onset is usually abrupt and patients tend to suffer severe headaches and malaise, as well as severe haemorrhagic manifestations. In fatal cases, sufferers usually exhibit some form of bleeding. Although the disease has no vaccine and no specific treatment, case fatality rates vary greatly.

The UN health agency noted that an investigation into the outbreak was ongoing, adding that it does not recommend that any travel or trade restrictions be applied to Uganda.


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