Marburg virus: UAE advises travellers from Tanzania and Equatorial Guinea to isolate

People who visited African nations have been urged to visit a health centre or emergency department

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The UAE has advised people travelling from Tanzania and Equatorial Guinea to isolate and visit a health centre for a check-up.

The announcement comes amid outbreaks of the deadly Marburg virus in the African countries.

The Ministry of Health and Prevention urged the public to avoid travelling to Tanzania and Equatorial Guinea "unless necessary" owing to the spread of the virus.

"The situation in these countries is being closely monitored to determine the global severity of the disease," the ministry said on Tuesday.

We are aware of reports about the Marburg virus and are closely monitoring developments on this front
Emirates Airline statement

"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."

Equatorial Guinea, in East Africa, said the Ebola-like disease spread from rural areas to the commercial capital Bata. The country has confirmed 13 cases.

In Tanzania, in the west of the continent, eight cases and five deaths have been reported.

People returning to the UAE from Tanzania and Equatorial Guinea are recommended to isolate and get "medical attention at the nearest health facility or emergency department within hospitals", the ministry said.

"Those who travelled to affected areas should inform medical staff that they have been to an area where Marburg virus disease is spreading or have been in contact with infected individuals, or exhibit symptoms for up to 21 days," the ministry said.

The recommendation comes after the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Co-operation warned UAE citizens against travelling to the countries.

UAE flights from Tanzania to continue

Airlines in the UAE said flights were operating as normal but they were "closely monitoring the situation".

“Emirates’ flights to Dar es Salaam are operating per normal schedule,” an Emirates spokesperson said.

"We are aware of reports about the Marburg virus and are closely monitoring developments on this front including the latest guidance from relevant health authorities.”

Flights between Dubai and Tanzania are operating as scheduled, flydubai said.

"We are currently monitoring the situation closely," an airline representative said.

Tanzania's health authorities said the outbreak was contained and Dr Matshidiso Moeti, the World Health Organisation's regional director for Africa, said efforts by the country to establish the cause of the disease showed "the determination to effectively respond to the outbreak”.

“We are working with the government to rapidly scale up control measures to halt the spread of the virus and end the outbreak as soon as possible,” Dr Moeti said.

The WHO is working with the African countries to tackle the outbreaks by sending health emergency experts and vital medical materials.

Marburg is considered to be “a very rare disease in people”, the US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention said.

But when outbreaks occur, it has the potential to spread and can be fatal, it said.

The virus originated in fruit bats and can spread among humans through contact with the bodily fluids of infected people.

It has a death rate of 88 per cent and there is no vaccine or antiviral treatment.

The WHO has advised that supportive care — rehydration with oral or intravenous fluids — and treatment of specific symptoms improves the chances of survival.

Illness caused by the virus begins abruptly and symptoms include severe headaches, fatigue and nausea, before haemorrhagic symptoms begin within seven days.

Marburg was first detected in 1967 after simultaneous outbreaks in Marburg and Frankfurt in Germany, and in Belgrade, Serbia, the WHO said.

Outbreaks and cases have since been reported in Angola, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Kenya, South Africa and Uganda.

Updated: April 05, 2023, 4:17 AM