Ministry of Health allays fears of Marburg virus outbreak

The Ministry of Health has allayed fears of a Marburg fever outbreak in the country, but urged Kenyans to remain vigilant after several cases of the viral disease were confirmed in neighboring Uganda.

Speaking to KBC radio, the Deputy Director Medical Services in charge of the Disease Surveillance and Response Unit, Dr. Philip Muthoka, said samples from a herbalist in Trans Nzoia county suspected of contracting the virus have tested negative.

The herbalist, Fridah Ajwang’s, blood sample was collected on Monday and taken to KEMRI for tests after she hosted at her home a Ugandan who later succumbed to the disease.

Muthoka  has urged Kenyans living near the Kenya- Uganda border who exhibit symptoms that include Abdominal Pain, Aches, Pain, Fever, Diarrhea, Headache, And Jaundice in Adults to immediately seek medical attention.

He has also urged Kenyans to avoid contact with green monkeys which are mostly found in Mt. Elgon Forest which extends to Uganda where the contagious and deadly Marburg disease was declared in the Kween district of eastern Uganda.

Regions considered high risk include West Pokot, Transnzoia ,Bungoma, Busia and all points of entry to the country.

He said already two units have been dispatched to these high risk areas to monitor and quarantine any individuals suspected to have the virus.

Marburg virus disease, which causes severe viral hemorrhagic fever, ranks among the most virulent pathogens known to infect humans, according to the World Health Organization.

Symptoms and mortality rate

Once transmitted, the virus incubates for two to 21 days. High fever, severe headache and extreme lethargy are the most prominent symptoms, which may also include muscle aches, diarrhea, abdominal cramping, nausea and vomiting.

Hemorrhaging begins between five and seven days after the fever starts. Fatal cases usually have some form of bleeding, often from multiple areas.

Patients appear “ghost-like,” with drawn features, deep-set eyes and expressionless faces, according to the WHO.

On average, the mortality rate is about 50% for this hemorrhagic fever, which was first detected in 1967 during simultaneous outbreaks in Marburg and Frankfurt, Germany, and in Belgrade, Serbia.

During previous outbreaks, though, fatality rates have varied from 24% to 88% depending on the viral strain and how well health authorities managed the disease, according to the WHO.

Currently, there are no treatments for Marburg virus disease.



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