Arua- The Ministry of Health has cautioned Ugandans to avoid contact with any person that presents signs and symptoms of Marburg.
While issuing the statement on Thursday, the Minister for Health, Dr Jane Ruth Aceng, said: “As at 19th October, only one case had been confirmed. The confirmed case was a 50-year-old female from Chemuron village, Moyok Parish, Moyok sub county, Kween District in Eastern Uganda. She presented with signs and symptoms suggestive of a Viral Hemorrhagic Fever (VHF) and unfortunately passed on during the night of October 11 at Kapchorwa Hospital, having been referred from Kaproron Health Center IV in Kween district.”
Dr Aceng said preliminary field investigations indicated that prior to her death, the deceased had nursed her 42-year-old brother, who had died on September 25 with similar signs and symptoms.
“She had also closely participated in the cultural preparation of the body for burial. The deceased’s brother was reported to be a hunter who carried out his activities where there are caves with heavy presence of bats. An isolation ward at the Kapchorwa District Hospital and Kaproron Health Center IV in Kween District have been established to handle cases,” she added
In African tradition, the loved ones feel high attachment with the dead where they keep it for days before burial. And in some cultures in the country, people consume bats, monkeys as they disregard the health effects.
These cultural norms have posed a challenge to health teams as the locals do not want to breach their culture.
The migratory bats in Arua. They are potential causes of Marburg virus. Photo by Felix
Marburg Virus Disease (MVD) is caused by the Marburg virus, a rare but severe type of Viral Hemorrhagic Fever which affects both humans and non-human primates like monkeys, baboons.
Marburg virus is the African fruit bat. Fruit bats infected with Marburg virus do not show obvious signs of illness. Primates (including humans) are vulnerable to contracting the Marburg virus, which is known to have a very high mortality.
In Marburg outbreaks, the first person normally gets infected through contact with infected bats or animals (normally monkeys/baboons). Once the first person (Index case) gets infected with the Marburg Virus, human to human transmission of Marburg Virus Disease (MVD) then occurs through contact with the body fluids (blood, vomitus, Urine, feces) of already infected persons.
A person suffering from Marburg presents with sudden onset of high-grade fever accompanied by symptoms like headache, vomiting blood, joint and muscle pains, unexplained bleeding through the body openings including the eyes, nose, gums, ears, anus and the skin.
There is no specific treatment or vaccine available for Marburg for now, but patients are given supportive treatment which supports the natural recovery process of the body and this improves tremendously the patient’s survival chances. However, treatment outcomes are better for those who seek care early.