Threat of  Marburg Virus Disease eases at Kenya-Uganda border

By Gatonye Gathura

It is all clear over Marburg virus threat at the Kenyan-Uganda border as 21-day observation period pass without new infections.

But health authorities including the World Health Organisation (WHO) say will maintain heightened surveillance in Uganda and at the border up to 7th December.

A statement from the (WHO) says suspects who have been under surveillance for Marburg in both countries have safely completed the 21 day observation period.

Following the death of three Ugandans in October from a Marburg outbreak about 339 Ugandans and about a dozen Kenyans have since been under a mandatory 21 day observational period.

Now WHO says all the suspects safely completed the observational period on Thursday but authorities are not going to let up on surveillance.

“Enhanced surveillance activities will continue until 7th December 2017,” says the WHO statement.

At the same time the Director of Medical Services Dr Jackson Kioko says the ministry will continue surveillance in the border area until all is clear.

But for the second time this month WHO has cautioned tourists to the Mt Elgon National Park on the Kenya-Uganda border to take extra protective measures.

“The Mount Elgon caves are a major tourist attraction, and are host to large colonies of cave-dwelling fruit bats, known to transmit the Marburg virus.”

On Saturday the European Center for Disease Prevention and Control issued a similar caution to their residents wishing to travel to the park,

“EU travellers to Uganda and in particular to the Mount Elgon bat caves, should be made aware of the situation and should avoid contact with sick humans, sick or dead animals, avoid exposure to fruit bats and contact with non-human primates,” the EU says in its weekly Communicable Disease Threats Report.

Where possible, it advises such visitors to the caves to wear gloves and protective clothing, including masks.

In the detailed report WHO explains how Kenya got involved in the Marburg outbreak first reported by Uganda on 17th October.

As of yesterday, three cases of Marburg have been reported including two confirmed cases, and one probable case.

“All three cases, belonging to the same family have died, resulting in a case fatality rate of 100 per cent,” explained the global health body.

It all started with a 35-years-old Ugandan herdsman who frequently hunted near the area of Elgon caves.

He was admitted to hospital on 20th September with suspected Marburg-like symptoms and died five days later, according to the WHO report.

The first confirmed case was the sister and caretaker of the herdsman. The second confirmed case was the brother of the first two cases, who died on 26 October 2017.

Prior to his death, the second confirmed case travelled to Kenya where he visited his relatives in West Pokot County, as well as a traditional healer in Trans Nzoia County.

Samples from the traditional healer have since tested negative for Marburg at the Kenyan Medical Research Institute in Nairobi.

She, her family and any other contacts, WHO now says have completed the 21 day observational period and are clear of Marburg infection.

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