Kenya heightens surveillance at border points to prevent a spill of Marburg

Blood sample positive with Marburg virus. [Getty Images]

The Ministry of Health has heightened surveillance at Kenyan's border points as a precautionary measure to curb the spread of Marburg disease, following an outbreak in neighbouring Tanzania.

The Ministry took these measures after five people out of eight confirmed cases died from the disease in Tanzania.

Tanzania's Health Ministry and World Health Organisation (WHO) confirmed the outbreak on Tuesday.

In a statement, Acting Director General in the Ministry of Health Patrick Amoth said surveillance and response has been enhanced at all border points between Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda.

Dr Amoth has also called on the public to report any unusual incidents of individuals presenting symptoms of the disease.

"The Ministry of Health wishes to inform the public to be on high alert and report any unusual increase in individuals presenting with high fever (hotness of the body) of unknown cause, and especially those with history of travel to Tanzania," reads a section of the report.

Marburg is a highly contagious disease which presents with severe fever, bleeding, diarrhoea, flu, bleeding from all body openings, and severe headache.

The disease is transmitted from one human to another through droplets, including saliva, blood, tears and human faeces.

It can also be transmitted from animal to human, if someone touches an infected animal.

Following the alert, the Ministry has also directed all county health officials to be vigilant to identify and isolate any suspect cases for proper and timely management.

Individuals presenting with symptoms of the disease are expected to seek treatment in the nearest hospitals for assessment and management.

"The Ministry is committed and shall remain vigilant to ensure that Kenyans are well-informed and protected against public health threats including infectious diseases and that that citizens continue to receive quality health services," said Amoth.

The Ministry reiterated of enhancing surveillance, saying there are strong trade ties between Kenya and Tanzania.

According to the Ministry, Bukoba the second-largest port after Mwanza on Lake Victoria in Tanzania.

In the statement, Amoth said Bukoba Airport and regular ferry connections to and from Mwanza that has connections with Kisumu in Kenya.

There are also a number of buses that ply the route between Bukoba and Kampala in Uganda on daily basis and some end up in certain destinations in Kenya

Further, it has been established that at last two buses with a capacity of 100 passengers originate from epicentre of current MVD outbreak.

Amoth noted that Marburg can have a serious social economic impact as demos in previous outbreaks, for example the Ebola virus disease outbreak of 2014 and 2016, in West Africa.

The three most affected countries namely Guinea, Liberia and Siera Leone estimated to have lost more than USD4.3 billion.

"It is therefore to initiate early prevention, preparedness and response measures to prevent the spread and impact of potential Marburg," said the official.

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