Kenya and Tanzania are among counties identified by the World Health Organisation as likely hotspots for the plague that has ravaged Madagascar and a recent Marburg virus disease outbreak in eastern Uganda.
So serious is the prospect of the Marburg Virus crossing over the border to Kenya that the WHO has released $500,000 to contain the epidemic.
WHO’s latest update on the outbreak put Tanzania, South Africa, Seychelles, Ethiopia, Mauritius, La Réunion, Kenya, Comoros and Mozambique on notice for possible spread of disease because of trade and travel links with Madagascar.
WHO says the disease first appeared in ports of Madagascar in 1898.
“The recent appearance in Madagascar of a strain of the plague microbe Yersinia pestis showing multiresistance to antibiotics is a matter of much concern and highlights the necessity for effective surveillance of the disease. This strain, isolated from a patient with bubonic plague, was resistant to all first–line antibiotics as well as major alternative drugs,” says the document.
The Permanent Secretary in Tanzania’s Ministry of Health, Community Development, Gender, Children and the Elderly, Dr Mpoki Ulisubisya, said Ebola, Marburg and Zika fever have not been diagnosed in the country.
On Thursday, Ugandan Health Minister Jane Aceng confirmed one case of the virus, saying a 50-year-old woman had died after doctors diagnosed the disease following a series of tests on the patient.
“Prior to her illness and subsequent demise, she had nursed her 42-year old brother who died on September 25 after falling sick with similar signs and symptoms,” said Ms Aceng.
Kenya has put measures in place to protect the country from the disease outbreaks.
The Ministry of Health has intensified surveillance at all points of entry and within counties bordering eastern Uganda, including Busia, Bungoma, Trans Nzoia and West Pokot.
Travellers and crew members of vessels from the two countries must undergo screening and fill surveillance forms upon arrival in Kenya. Aircraft and ships from the two countries are being inspected for rodent and flea infestation.
Tanzania and Kenya are yet to report cases of plague this year but have experienced the epidemics before.
From 1980 to 1997, human plague was reported in Tanzania every year with 7,246 cases and 585 deaths. Kenya reported 393 cases and 10 deaths in 1979 which was the last major epidemic in the country. A total of 10 deaths occurred between 1980 and 1990.