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Uganda, 8 October 2014: MARBURG: UNICEF and WHO support Government’s awareness and surveillance efforts

8 October 2014, KAMPALA – The Government and partners have stepped up efforts to combat Marburg, a deadly viral haemorrhagic fever.

Through the Ministry of Health, partners like UNICEF and WHO are responding to the outbreak by supporting areas of social mobilization geared towards creating more awareness about the disease, technical assistance as well as logistical support for contact tracing.

The Director General Health Services, Ministry of Health, Dr. Jane Aceng says government is engaging various partners to support in areas of their comparative advantage and expertise. She adds that partners have been assigned to various sub committees which feed into the National Task Force chaired by the Ministry of Health.

As a member of the Ministry of Health Social Mobilization task force, UNICEF and WHO will run a countrywide media campaign to sensitize the masses on the dangers and precautionary measures to take.

“We are providing technical expertise and financial support to ensure that messaging is directed through the mass media, social networks as well as use of Information Education and Communication (IEC) materials,” Aida Girma, UNICEF Representative noted.

According to World Health Organization, Marburg virus causes the Marburg haemorrhagic fever. The virus belongs to the same family of viruses as Ebola and is highly contagious.

“WHO is providing technical support and has deployed a team of experts from the WHO Regional Office to support national and district response,” said Dr. Fisseha Solomon, Medical Officer, Disaster Preparedness.

UNICEF has also committed to provide technical support in the area of training health workers to equip them with the right information and knowledge about the disease.

Sean Blaschke, UNICEF Health Specialist says it is critical to ensure health workers’ safety and this can be realized through the provision of information to the teams on their roles in term of examining the suspected cases.

“At this stage, contact tracing and isolation is our number one priority. Early triage is very important,” he explains. Blaschke has just returned from Liberia where UNICEF is supporting the Liberian government fight the Ebola epidemic.

In addition, the agencies will play a key role in strengthening surveillance at both community and facility level through mTrac, (a UNICEF innovation) that supports Ministry of Health in nationwide disease surveillance and medicine tracking system to over 20,000 health workers at all 3,500 government health facilities.

Through mTrac, UNICEF and WHO will undertake messaging to all health workers in at-risk districts a scheduled set of updates and messages via SMS on Marburg transmission routes, disease control and prevention; Introduce surveys via SMS messages to all health workers in at-risks districts targeting health worker preparedness and safety - this includes training, heath workforce / staffing levels, supplies like Personal Protection Equipment; Establish a complementary SMS “alert” system to complement the existing notifiable disease reporting protocols, which would be immediately forwarded to the District Health Office for tracking and follow-up; Ensure all U-reporters in affected areas receive some basic information on prevention and protection of Marburg, and requested to look out for suspected cases; Support registration of beneficiaries of UNICEF supplies who have mobile phones at point of delivery and dispatching of targeted information via SMS on utilization of the supplies.

Symptoms
People with Marburg experience fever, headache and muscle pain. Five days later, a rash across the chest, back and stomach may be observed. Nausea, vomiting, chest pain, sore throat, abdominal pain and diarrhoea may also occur.

How it is spread?
Marburg is spread when one gets in contact with body fluids like blood, vomitus of those affected.

Since the reported outbreak of Marburg Hemorrhagic Fever on 30 September 2014 only one case was confirmed following laboratory tests done at the Uganda Virus Research Institute (UVRI). The index case is a 30-year-old male radiographer, who originally was working in Mpigi District Health Centre IV (HCIV), Mpigi Town Council as Radiographer but had been recruited by Church of Uganda founded Mengo Hospital – a Private not for Profit (two months ago). He started feeling unwell on 17September 2014 while on duty at Mengo Hospital and travelled back to Mpigi Health Centre IV on 18September 2014 to seek treatment since he felt more comfortable with a facility that he had worked with for a long time and had friends to take care of him while under medication.

Ministry of Health puts the number of contact cases to 109 as of 7October 2014. Blood samples of 12 suspected cases including the brother of the deceased that had shown symptoms of the disease, turned out negative. However, another sample will be removed to enable Uganda Virus Research Institute conduct another confirmatory test.
 

About UNICEF
UNICEF promotes the rights and well-being of every child, in everything we do. Together with our partners, we work in 190 countries and territories to translate that commitment into practical action, focusing special effort on reaching the most vulnerable and excluded children, to the benefit of all children, everywhere.

About WHO
WHO is a United Nations specialized agency concentrating exclusively on health by providing technical cooperation, carrying out programmes to control and eradicate disease and striving to improve the quality of human life.

For more information, please contact:

In UNICEF, Catherine Ntabadde, Communication Specialist, UNICEF Uganda, +256 772629567, cntabadde@unicef.org

In WHO, Edmond Mwebembezi, Public Information Officer, WHO Uganda, +256 782962674, emwebembezi@gmail.com

 

 
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