The Ministry of Health (MOH) of the United Republic of Tanzania declared the end to its first documented Marburg virus outbreak on June 2, 2023. Over a 10-week period, there were a total of nine confirmed cases and six deaths.
History of the Marburg Virus
The first documented cases of the Marburg virus were in 1967 when laboratory workers in Germany and Yugoslavia (now Serbia) were exposed to African green monkeys imported from Uganda. The disease is also found in cave-dwelling Egyptian rousette bats, often infecting miners. Marburg is in a group of diseases called viral hemorrhagic fevers (VHF) and can also be passed from person to person.
Effect and Response
According to the International Trade Association, Tanzania has some of the lowest rates of access to health personnel in the world, and over 60% of its health care facilities are government-run. According to a journal by the National Library of Medicine, the Marburg virus outbreak has been a wake-up call to some things that Tanzania needs to improve regarding its health care system.
Improvements such as a more thorough screening process and stricter quarantine strategies are necessary to stop the spread of the virus. The journal also states that educational campaigns and programs must be implemented in Tanzania as a preventative measure.
Tanzania has initiated quarantines in the one district reporting Marburg cases. They need to obtain more protective gear for the safety of health care workers, who are the first exposed to such outbreaks.
In a Gavi article, Ahmed Ogwell Ouma, acting director of the Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, states that re-emerging infectious diseases are a signal to improve the health care industry and strengthen their coping mechanisms. The MOH has detected a few weak links in the national response to the virus: The financial resources to combat the Marburg virus outbreak are insufficient, the health care industry is understaffed and inadequate tools to aid those affected.
Although efforts are being made to improve the health of those affected by Marburg virus, Tanzania is struggling to combat the repercussions because of its struggling health care system and largely impoverished population.
In 2019, 14 million people in Tanzania were living in poverty, up from 13 million in 2007. According to an Abbott article, around half the population is below the poverty line, making $1.90 a day. They have limited health care resources and only around three doctors for every 100,000 people.
Although there is not yet a vaccine to treat Marburg, it is important to receive hospital therapy. Temporary remedies include rehydration and blood cell replacement. Replenishing electrolytes and making sure that oxygen and blood pressure levels are at a normal and stable level are also fundamental to the healing process.
The virus is contained for now, and there are a few medications that can be used to mediate pain and nausea such as acetaminophen and ondansetron.
– Alex Hasenkamp