Travellers to mainland Tanzania and Equatorial Guinea potentially at risk
The UAE’s Ministry of Health and Prevention (MOHAP) has issued travel warnings for travellers going to Tanzania and Equatorial Guinea following the outbreak of the Marburg Virus.
MOHAP urged the public to avoid travelling to the destinations unless urgent, following the directives of several countries in the region and at least 21 confirmed cases.
The statement read: “If travel is unavoidable, necessary precautions should be taken to avoid exposure to the disease, such as avoiding close contact with patients, touching contaminated surfaces, and refraining from visiting caves and mines."
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MOHAP issued isolation guidelines for arriving travellers who have been to the two destinations and recommended that travellers seek medical attention at the nearest health facility or emergency departments within hospitals.
The MOHAP notice stated: "Those who travelled to the affected areas should inform medical staff that they have been to an area where the Marburg virus disease is spreading or have been in contact with infected individuals."
Flights so far remain unaffected. An Emirates spokesperson told Connecting Travel: “Emirates' flights to Dar es Salaam [Tanzania] are operating per normal schedule. We are aware of reports around the Marburg virus, and are closely monitoring developments on this front, including the latest guidance from relevant health authorities.”
The Revolutionary Government of Zanzibar also issued a statement to assure the international community and relevant stakeholders that the semi-autonomous islands of Zanzibar remain open for business and are ready to welcome travellers from around the world.
Zanzibar tourism minister Simai M Said commented: “While the United Republic of Tanzania and the Revolutionary Government of Zanzibar are monitoring the situation closely, there is absolutely no cause for alarm. Tanzania is adhering to the World Health Organisation (WHO) standards and people have no reason to worry."
Findings by the United Republic of Tanzania’s Ministry of Health in collaboration with WHO show that as of the 4 April 2023, the total number of remaining Marburg virus cases in the Kagera region was three, of which only two remain in isolation after one person was discharged on the 5 April 2023.
What is the Marburg Virus?
Marburg virus is a severe and life-threatening hemorrhagic fever that is rare but highly dangerous to human health, with an 88% risk of death. The disease, which has also been found in Cameroon and Valencia in Spain, is caused by a zoonotic RNA virus that is transmitted from animals to humans in a closed environment, such as mines or caves inhabited by bats.
Symptoms develop suddenly and include fever, chills, headache, myalgia, chest pain, and a sore throat. In severe cases it can involve bleeding from the ears and eyes, jaundice, severe weight loss and other serious health complications.
Those displaying symptoms for more than 21 days have also been urged to seek medical help.
Zanzibar remains open for business
What are the next steps?
The World Health Organisation is working with both Tanzania and Equatorial Guinea to tackle the outbreaks by providing expert assistance and supplying vital materials.
The disease has emerged several times over the past half century or so. Emergency preparations were under way in Ghana in July 2022 for a potential outbreak of the deadly Marburg disease after two people were reported to have died from infection.
There have been 12 major Marburg outbreaks since it was first discovered in 1967 in Germany, mostly in southern and eastern Africa.