TANZANIA—In response to a Marburg Virus Disease (Marburg) outbreak, the World Health Organisation (WHO) and its partners have bolstered Tanzania’s public health emergency preparedness and response capabilities. 

This initiative follows Tanzania’s declaration of the outbreak in June 2023, which was controlled in a record 90 days with a total of nine cases (eight confirmed and one probable) and six deaths. 

WHO has supported the Government of Tanzania in providing infectious disease management training to over 200 environmental health officials, community health workers, medical attendants, and religious leaders from eight districts in the Kagera and Mwanza regions. 

WHO has also supplied 14,220 infection prevention and control (IPC) standards of operations and checklists, which were prepositioned and utilized in 106 health facilities that were assessed and monitored for IPC compliance. 

With support from the United Kingdom’s Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office, WHO also trained 35 IPC focal persons from healthcare facilities across various districts in the Kagera region, enabling them to establish IPC committees within these facilities. 

WHO was further able to facilitate the delivery of two dialysis machines to Bukoba Regional Hospital to support essential healthcare during outbreaks, with support from USAID. 

To aid recovery from outbreak-associated shock and depression, 1,400 people affected by the Marburg outbreak also received counseling and psychological care. 

Notably, the refurbishment of the Mutukula Border Isolation Unit in the Kagera region is just one aspect of the government’s Marburg Virus Disease recovery plan. 

Through funding from the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) in Tanzania, this refurbishment has significantly enhanced the country’s capacity to detect, prevent, and respond swiftly to public health outbreaks and emergencies. 

As a popular tourist destination bordered by eight countries, including some that have long struggled with outbreaks of both Marburg and Ebola, Tanzania’s Mutukula border post is one of the busiest crossings.  

The new facility at this post has a pivotal role in the timely screening and isolation of suspected infectious disease cases, helping to control community disease transmission. 

Commenting on these initiatives, Salum Rajab Kimbau, Regional Vaccination Coordinator for Kagera, noted that previously, they used an old, dilapidated tent that accommodated both male and female suspected cases under unfavorable conditions. 

Kimbau expressed gratitude to WHO and its partners for their immense support in fighting outbreaks, especially during the Marburg outbreak. 

Dr. Mahona Jumanne Ndulu, at Bukoba Regional Referral Hospital in Tanzania’s Kagera region, recalled the challenges he faced when he was infected with Marburg, noting that having the newly refurbished Mutukula isolation unit is significant in protecting health workers and communities from infectious diseases. 

Reflecting on the situation one year after the end of the outbreak, Dr. Charles Sagoe-Moses, WHO’s Country Representative in Tanzania, said significant advances had been made that would help the country cope even more efficiently with the next outbreak. 

“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 explained. 

Marburg is highly virulent and causes hemorrhagic fever, with a fatality ratio of up to 88%. It is in the same family as the virus that causes Ebola virus disease.Illness begins abruptly, with high fever, severe headache, and severe malaise. Many patients develop severe hemorrhagic symptoms within seven days. 

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