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MSF intervenes to respond to a Marburg fever outbreak

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Two teams of Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) are currently in Eastern Uganda, supporting local health authorities and their partners in responding to a Marburg hemorrhagic fever outbreak.

    So far, three people died from the disease (one suspect case and two confirmed cases) on September 25, October 13 and October 26 respectively. They all belonged to the same family. The two first cases died in Kapchorwa hospital, while the third case died in the treatment unit in Kween health center. 

    MSF is focusing its intervention around case management, and support to contact tracing and mapping. In Kween, MSF runs a 10-bed treatment unit, and a MSF epidemiologist is helping local health authorities with contact tracing –listing and monitoring people having been in contact with identified cases. In Kapchorwa, MSF runs, together with the Ministry of Health, a 9-bed treatment unit within the existing district hospital.

    Marburg virus disease is similar to Ebola – early symptoms are not specific and include fever, headache, fatigue, nausea. Like Ebola, it can be lethal in up to 90% of cases. There is currently no officially approved vaccine or treatment against the disease, as no product has currently completed its clinical research path. However, existing drugs have shown at least partial efficacy against other filoviruses, and MSF, toghether with the local health authorities, is currently investigating if they could be used in the context of a compassionate scheme (a treatment that allows the use of an unapproved medicine when no autorised treatment is available).

    MSF first intervened in Uganda in 1980. The medical humanitarian organization currently runs emergency programs to assist South Sudanese refugees in the North of the country, as well as longer-term programs in Arua and Kasese districts. Here, focus is put on HIV, tuberculosis, malaria, and other infectious diseases, as well as access to healthcare for populations with specific needs (adolescents, fishermen communities, sex workers, amongst others).

    * Main photo: view of the Marburg virus under an electron microscope. Enlargement 100 000x.© Dr. Erskine Palmer, Russell Regnery, Ph.D. via Wikimedia Commons.