Kenya on high alert over Marburg outbreak in Tanzania

Acting Director General for Health Patrick Amoth

Acting Director General for Health Patrick Amoth.

Photo credit: Sila Kiplagat | Nation Media Group

Kenyan health  officials are on high alert following the outbreak of Marburg in Tanzania.

In a statement on Wednesday, the acting Director General for Health at the Ministry of Health Dr Patrick Amoth said county health officials have been ordered to remain on high alert to identify any possible outbreak of the disease within Kenya's borders.

Amoth's sentiments come after eight confirmed cases of the killer disease were recorded in Bukoba, Kagera Province in the North Western part of Tanzania and the South-Western shores of Lake Victoria.

Five people have since died of the disease in the aforesaid areas after displaying symptoms such as fever, vomiting, diarrhea, and bleeding through various body openings.

"The Ministry wishes to inform the general public to be on high alert and report any unusual increase in individuals presenting with high fever (hotness of the body) of unknown cause, and especially those with history of travel to Tanzania," said Dr. Amoth.

"Such individuals are advised to immediately report to the nearest health facility for assessment and management."

Dr. Amoth added that owing to the proximity of the disease's epicentres to Kenya, the State cannot afford laxness when it comes to detecting any new MVD infections. 

"Bukoba is the second largest port after Mwanza on Lake Victoria in Tanzania. The town is served by the Bukoba Airport and regular ferry connections to and from Mwanza that has connections with Kisumu in Kenya," he said.

"There are a number of buses that ply the route between Bukoba and Kampala in Uganda on a daily basis and some of which end up in certain destinations in Kenya. Further, it has been established that at least two buses with capacity f 100 passengers ply Mwanza - Sirare/Isebania border route."

Dr. Amoth added that there is also substantial human traffic between Tanzania and Kenya through informal land and maritime border crossing points along the South Western border with Northern Tanzania.

"The epicenter of the outbreak is 611 kilometres to Kisumu and 1,079 kilometres to Nairobi by road," he said.

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), Marburg and Ebola viruses are both members of the Filoviridae family. Though caused by different viruses, the two diseases are clinically similar.

"Marburg spreads through human-to-human transmission via direct contact (through broken skin or mucous membranes) with the blood, secretions, organs or other bodily fluids of infected people, and with surfaces and materials (e.g. bedding, clothing) contaminated with these fluids," says WHO on its website.

"Transmission via contaminated injection equipment or through needle-stick injuries is associated with more severe disease, rapid deterioration, and, possibly, a higher fatality rate. People remain infectious as long as their blood contains the virus."