Marburg Virus Disease

22 Mar 2023

Marburg Virus Disease

Dear Students, Parents and Colleagues,

Yesterday the World Health Organisation announced the first cases of Marburg virus disease in Tanzania. Marburg is a serious, often fatal, hemorrhagic disease and at the time of writing five people have died, a further three are still receiving treatment and 161 contacts are being monitored. There is no vaccine for the disease and there is no known cure.

The outbreak is in the north-west of the county in the Kagera region on the west of Lake Victoria. Whilst Bukoba is around 600 km (over 1,000 km by road) from Moshi and Arusha, the risk, especially with the upcoming vacation, must not be underestimated and we must all take a cautious approach. At this time the outbreak is ongoing and the potential spread is not yet known. Marburg is known to have an incubation period of 2-21 days and secondary cases could be diagnosed in the next weeks.

As we look forward to the vacation, please note the following:

  1. The school cannot sanction travel to the north west of Tanzania unless students are travelling to see parents.
  2. Any student or staff member travelling to this region must inform their Head of Campus: Arusha – Phil Bowen, or Moshi – Bob Cofer,
  3. If students or staff have to travel then they should not use public transport, specifically buses, wherever possible. The upcoming holiday will be a peak travelling time throughout the country.

Transmission of Marburg virus disease
The virus spreads through contact with blood or other body fluids (urine, saliva, sweat, feces, vomit, breast milk, amniotic fluid, and semen) of a person who is sick with or died from Marburg virus disease, or objects contaminated with body fluids from a person who is sick with or has died from Marburg virus disease (such as clothes, bedding, needles, and medical equipment).

Signs and symptoms of Marburg virus disease
After an incubation period of 2-21 days, symptom onset is sudden. Initial symptoms of the disease include:

  • Fever,
  • Chills,
  • Headache,
  • Muscle pain.

These can then be followed by:

  • Rash, most obvious on the chest, back and stomach,
  • Nausea and vomiting,
  • Chest pain,
  • Sore throat,
  • Abdominal pain,
  • Diarrhoea.

Diagnosis of Marburg virus disease can be difficult as many of the signs and symptoms are similar to other infectious diseases, so anyone experiencing these symptoms should see a doctor, or in the case of a residential student back at school, the school nurse who will arrange for them to see a doctor.

Marburg virus disease is very rare in people, and preventive measures against Marburg virus disease are not well defined. The best prevention is not to come in contact with a person with or showing potential signs of Marburg.

Much of this information has been taken from the WHO and CDC websites and more can be found there.

Working together, the risk of Marburg virus disease to our community is low, and I thank you for working with us.

Please do not hesitate to contact me if you have any questions.

Warm regards,

Anna Marsden