How Tanzania Successfully Managed the Marburg Virus Outbreak


By, Modupe Adeniyi. Freelance Health Reporter.

Map of Africa showing Tanzania

A map of Africa showing the location of Tanzania. Click on image to enlarge. 


FRIDAY, JUNE 7, 2024. In June 2023, Tanzania celebrated the end of the Marburg Virus Disease (MVD) outbreak, a deadly virus known for its high fatality rate and severe symptoms. 

“I remember hearing the news that I was infected with Marburg like it happened yesterday. It was one of the most challenging periods for me,” recalls Dr. Mahona Jumanne Ndulu, a health worker at Bukoba Regional Referral Hospital in Tanzania’s Kagera region.

The outbreak lasted 90 days with nine confirmed cases and six fatalities. The response to this crisis by the World Health Organization (WHO) and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), has left a lasting impact on Tanzania's public health systems.

The refurbishment of the Mutukula Border Isolation Unit in the Kagera region is a testament to these efforts. This facility, funded by USAID, plays a crucial role in the country’s ability to manage infectious diseases.


Salum Rajab Kimbau, Regional Vaccination Coordinator for Kagera, recalls, “Previously, we used an old, dilapidated tent that accommodated both male and female suspected cases. The conditions were not favorable at all. We are grateful to WHO and its partners for the immense support in fighting outbreaks, especially during the Marburg outbreak.”

To enhance preparedness, WHO trained over 200 community health workers, environmental health officials and religious leaders in the Kagera and Mwanza regions. Additionally, WHO provided 14,220 infection prevention and control (IPC) standards and checklists to 106 health facilities, ensuring compliance and readiness for future outbreaks. With USAID's support, two dialysis machines were delivered to Bukoba Regional Hospital, bolstering the hospital's capacity to provide critical care during health crises.

The psychological impact of the Marburg outbreak was significant, prompting the need for counseling and support. Approximately 1,400 individuals affected by the outbreak received psychological care to help them cope with the trauma.

Reflecting on the outbreak, Dr. Charles Sagoe-Moses, WHO’s Country Representative in Tanzania, emphasized the need for continuous vigilance and preparedness. “If the Marburg virus outbreak has taught us anything, it is that we must stay alert and always be prepared to respond to emergencies. So, this is no time to let down our guard," he stated.

Tanzania's response to the Marburg virus outbreak has strengthened its health systems and emergency response capabilities, providing valuable lessons for future health threats. The nation's efforts to improve its public health infrastructure and preparedness will be crucial in protecting its citizens against future outbreaks.


Source: World Health Organization Newsroom.


About Marburg Virus Disease

Marburg hemorrhagic fever is a severe and highly fatal disease caused by a virus from the same family as the one that causes Ebola hemorrhagic fever. Both diseases are rare, but can cause dramatic outbreaks with high fatality.

Initial recognition of the disease occurred in the European countries of Germany, Belgrade and later Serbia in the late 1960’s following laboratory work done on green monkeys that were imported from Uganda. Since then, many outbreaks of the disease have been reported in Southern, Central and Eastern African countries of Angola, South Africa, Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania. Also between 2021 to 2023, several outbreaks were reported in the West Africa countries of Guinea, Ghana and Equatorial Guinea.

Human infection with the disease is associated with prolonged exposure with droppings of Rousettus bat colonies in mines or caves. An individual infected with the virus can spread it to other humans by way of direct contact with the blood, secretions, organs or other bodily fluids of the infected person. Spread may also occur through contact with infected surfaces and materials (e.g. bedding, clothing) contaminated with these fluids

There is currently no specific treatment or vaccine for Marburg virus disease.

Click here to learn more about the symptoms and treatment of the disease.



Published: June 7, 2024

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