KAMPALA, Uganda — Three days after a fatal case of Marburg hemorrhagic fever was diagnosed in Uganda, 99 people are under isolation in four different locations across the East African country, as field epidemiologists and surveillance officers continue to closely monitor all people who got into contact with only victim.
More than 60 health workers form the bulk of people under isolation after they were identified as having contact with a 30-year old male health worker who died September 28 of Marburg — an Ebola-like hemorrhagic fever.
“As of today, a total of 99 contacts are under follow up. All the contacts are still in a healthy condition,” Dr. Jane Ruth Aceng, director general for health services in Uganda, said in the latest update on the outbreak on Tuesday.
“The National Taskforce through the field epidemiologists and surveillance officers continues to closely monitor all people who got into contact with this confirmed case,” she noted.
The dead health worker was a radiographer in a hospital in the capital of Kampala and also at Mpigi District Health Center IV, places where authorities say he made contact with colleagues.
Aceng revealed that at least 11 people have tested negative after results from Uganda Virus Research Institute (UVRI) indicate that although the suspects had developed signs and symptoms similar to that of the disease, they did not contract the virus.
“However, for those who continue to have signs, tests will be run again after three days,” Dr. Aceng said.
Among those who tested negative include are the brother of the deceased; two health workers from a children HIV/AIDS hospital; seven persons from Mpigi Health Center IV; and two relatives of the deceased who participated in the burial.
“When he felt ill on September 17, he traveled back to Mpigi for treatment since he felt more comfortable with a facility that he had worked with for a long time, a duration the disease was spread,” said a statement by health authorities last Sunday.
Marburg virus was first identified in 1967, when 31 people became sick in Germany and Yugoslavia in an outbreak that was eventually traced back to laboratory monkeys imported from Uganda. Since then the virus has appeared sporadically, with just a dozen outbreaks on record, many — including the current situation — involving just a single patient.
Marburg virus causes symptoms similar to Ebola, beginning with fever and weakness and often leading to internal or external bleeding, organ failure and death. The death rate runs as high as 80 percent, although it was significantly lower in the initial outbreak when patients were cared for in relatively modern, European hospitals.
The most recent outbreak, also in Uganda, in 2012, killed four out of 15 patients, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
On Tuesday, CDC Director Thomas Frieden pointed to the most recent Marburg case as an example of how a deadly virus could be contained.
“We’ve done important work in Uganda to help the Ugandans better have a laboratory network so they can find cases, have a response network with disease detectives who can follow up and have an emergency operations center to trace individual cases,” Frieden said.
The extensive contact tracing included tracking an embalmer back to Kenya, where he was tested and found not to be infected with Marburg.
“I mention this, because oftentimes in public health, what gets noticed is what happens and it’s hard to see what doesn’t happen,” Frieden continued, noting that there have so far been no additional cases. “That may not make headlines, but it does give us confidence that we can control Ebola in West Africa.”