Kenya on high alert over possible Marburg outbreak

Kenya said Saturday that adequate measures have been put in place, with health facilities and ports of entry being on high alert, to check possible outbreak of Marburg haemorrhagic fever in the country.

Nairobi: Kenya said Saturday that adequate measures have been put in place, with health facilities and ports of entry being on high alert, to check possible outbreak of Marburg haemorrhagic fever in the country.

Nicholas Muraguri, director of medical services in the country's health ministry, urged citizens to be vigilant and avoid contact with anyone who has travelled from Uganda after a Ugandan man died from the haemorrhagic fever, Xinhua reported.

"Kenyan health workers have been provided with a case definition and instructions on screening all persons who have travelled to Kampala or have had contact with someone from Uganda if they present Marburg-like syndrome," said Muraguri in a statement issued in Nairobi.

He also confirmed that two suspected cases of the fatal virus were reported to the health ministry, which turned out to be negative.

"Two suspected cases of Marburg have been reported to the Disease Outbreak Response Team. These were a man and a woman who had travelled from Uganda and developed fever and other symptoms that are similar to Marburg disease," Muraguri said.

He said the blood samples of the two, however, were found to be negative for both Marburg and Ebola viruses, adding that they were treated for other infections and discharged.

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), Marburg is a severe and highly fatal disease caused by a virus from the same family as the one that causes Ebola haemorrhagic fever.

The illness caused by Marburg virus begins abruptly, with severe headache and severe malaise. As with Ebola, the family and health personnel in contact with infected patients are particularly at risk of contamination.

Muraguri cautioned the public to avoid those who have complaints of fever, headache and other malaria-like symptoms as they could be exposed to Marburg disease. He appealed for maintenance of personal hygiene such as washing hands with soap as many times a day as possible as a sure way of remaining healthy and keeping the highly infectious virus at bay. 

The incubation period of the disease that manifests as a viral haemorrhagic fever is between two and 21 days.

The statement comes after a 30-year-old Ugandan health worker died Sep 29 of Marburg, and over 100 people, including more than 60 health workers, have been put under close monitoring after having contact with the dead in Uganda.

In Kenya, Muraguri said the government has already put all points of entry to the country from Uganda on high alert for the surveillance of the killer virus, adding the ministry has alerted government agencies to screen all incoming passengers from Uganda alongside the ongoing screening of Ebola.

He also called on Kenyans not to panic, saying the ministry has the capacity to diagnose and that an infectious diseases specialist who can manage cases of Ebola Marburg was on call.

The government has maintained that there is no case of Ebola or Marburg in the country, adding that the ministry of health will continue to update the country as the situation evolves.

Muraguri said the government shall continue with ongoing disease preparedness activities including training of health workers, stock piling important commodities for patient management and sensitisation of the public.

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