Marburg virus: Govt worried over porous borders at Mutukula

Uganda's health minister Dr Ruth Aceng and other officials inspect Mutukula border on March 25, 2023 to check the country's readiness to fight Marburg virus disease which broke out in neigbouring Tanzania. PHOTO/AMBORSE MUSASIZI

What you need to know:

  • Marburg virus incidents in Tanzania have prompted health authorities in neighboring Uganda to be on high alert.

Uganda's health minister Dr Jane Ruth Aceng has expressed concern over the porous routes along the Uganda-Tanzania border, saying they may aid the outbreak of Marburg virus in Uganda.

Confirmed on March 21 in Tanzania, Marburg virus has already killed five people in the President Samia Hasssan-led country with 8 cases reported by March 25.

Incidents in Tanzania have prompted health authorities in neighboring Uganda to be on high alert.

"We don't want to have that epidemic in our country because we have suffered from it before. Let us do more sensitisation because the porous borders are hard to protect,” Dr Aceng said while inspecting Mutukula border post on Friday following the outbreak in Tanzania.  

“The disease was confirmed in Bukoba District which is just 84km away from our border. Let us do the needful before it enters here,” she added.

Dr Daniel Kyabayinze, the director of public health in the ministry of health said: "We have noticed that there's congestion at the points where screening is taking place and this is soon going to be rectified but still, sensitization of masses will be key so that people know what they are dealing with," he said.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), Marburg virus begins abruptly with high fever, severe headache and malaise.

Severe diarrhea, abdominal pain and cramping, nausea and voting can also begin on the third day.

‘Great threat’

Mr Patrick Kisekulo, the Kyotera District chairperson noted that “a good number of Ugandans work in Tanzania during the day but sleep in Uganda and vice versa, which is a great threat.”

"There's a lot of mixing of both Ugandans and Tanzanians. You can hardly differentiate them since the border is just an imaginary line,” he said.

He further asked government to provide protective equipment and other necessary resources to health workers in the district since they will be at a high risk.

About Marburg prevention

The World Health Organisation and the US Centres for Disease Control say preventive measures against Marburg virus infection are not well defined as transmission from wildlife to people remains an area of ongoing research. However, they ask people to avoid fruit bats and sick non-human primates to protect against infection.

They also urge the public to prevent direct physical contact with a Marburg patient or suspect by wearing protective gowns, gloves, and masks, placing the infected individual in strict isolation; and sterilization or proper disposal of needles, equipment and patient excretions.