Indonesia on alert amid Marburg virus outbreak in Africa

Micrograph of the Marburg virus. - (Wikimedia Commons/The University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston) This article was published in with the title "Indonesia on alert amid increase of Marburg virus disease outbreakDNA analysis of Beethoven's hair provides clues to his death ". Click to read: Download The Jakarta Post app for easier and faster news access: Android: iOS:

JAKARTA (The Jakarta Post/Asia News Network): The Health Ministry is stepping up surveillance for the deadly Marburg virus disease (MVD) as outbreaks of the highly contagious haemorrhagic fever hit two countries in Africa.

The ministry has ordered officials at border checkpoints to increase monitoring over travellers, vehicles, goods, or animals coming from outbreak-stricken countries, namely Tanzania and Equatorial Guinea.

Authorities have also urged regional health agencies and healthcare facilities to monitor the outbreak development and strengthen their infection prevention and control systems.

The ministry’s spokesperson Mohammad Syahril said health authorities had carried out a rapid risk assessment over MVD on Feb 20 and found that the importation risk of the viral disease to the country was low.

"Despite this, however, I urge the public to remain vigilant and alert over the disease," he said on Tuesday (March 28), adding that no cases of MVD have yet been reported in the country.

In mid-February the World Health Organization reported that Equatorial Guinea, which is located on the west coast of Africa, confirmed its first-ever outbreak of MVD.

The country has so far found nine laboratory-confirmed cases, which lead to seven deaths. Local authorities are also investigating 20 deaths suspected to be linked to the fatal disease.

Earlier this month Tanzania in East Africa also reported its first confirmed case of MVD, with health officials stating that they are investigating a total of eight cases, five of whom have died.

Marburg is a type of filovirus, the same virus family that causes Ebola. Viruses in the Filoviridae family can cause severe haemorrhagic fever in people.

MVD is extremely deadly, with fatality rates ranging from 24 per cent to 80 per cent. MVD was first discovered in 1967 in Marburg and Frankfurt in Germany and Belgrade, Serbia.

There have been several outbreaks since its discovery, with the worst being Angola in 2004-2005, where there were 252 cases and 227 deaths.

The virus is transmitted to people from Egyptian fruit bats (Rousettus aegyptiacus) and spreads among humans through direct contact with the bodily fluids of infected people, surfaces and materials.

According to Syahril, the bats were not endemic to Indonesia and had never been found in the country, but Indonesia was among their migration routes. Symptoms of MVD are similar to endemic diseases in the country such as malaria, typhoid fever and dengue fever, making MVD difficult to identify, Syahril said.

Symptoms include a high fever, severe headache, severe malaise, diarrhoea and vomiting. In severe cases, infected individuals can bleed from their nose, gums, vagina, vomit and faeces.

Syahril said there were two MVD vaccines that were in clinical trials in the United States, but so far there were no vaccines or antiviral treatments approved to treat the virus.

However, according to the WHO, supportive care, rehydration with oral or intravenous fluids, and treatment of specific symptoms, can improve patients’ survival.

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Indonesia , Marburg , virus , alert


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