On July 13, a 29-year-old man died from Marburg hemorrhagic fever in a Kampala, Uganda hospital. Another patient, 21, tested positive for Marburg fever, but was discharged on July 9. Since then, no further cases have been detected. Both patients worked in a mine in Kamwenge District (about 250 km west of Kampala). After the first case was reported, MSF participated in a joint task force to follow up with people who had potentially been exposed to the disease. The task force declared the end of the outbreak when no new cases were reported for 42 days. This is double the accepted 21-day incubation period for Marburg fever. Nevertheless, isolation units have been set up at Mulago hospital in Kampala and at a health facility close to Kamwenge, where the cases originated. Health staff at these facilities have been trained to respond to a Marburg fever outbreak. MSF has provided technical support, training, drugs and supplies.
Marburg hemorrhagic fever
Marburg fever is a rare, severe and highly fatal disease. It begins with severe headaches and discomfort, and many patients later develop haemorrhaging. The disease has no vaccine and no specific treatment. Fatality rates have varied greatly, up to 80% in the Democratic Republic of the Congo between 1998-2000, and even higher during an outbreak that began in Angola in late 2004.
MSF in Marburg epidemics
The organization responds by setting up and managing isolation units where patients are cared for; maintaining hospital infection control; and reinforcing universal precautions. MSF also assists with identifying and tracing cases, ensuring safe burial practices, and maintaining water and sanitation systems. Teams also provide community education and epidemiological monitoring and analysis. Given the infectious nature of the disease, MSF teams wear extensive bio-safety gear. The clothing is not only uncomfortable but often frightens local people. This makes it even more important to properly educate communities about the virus.