The World Health Organization has declared the deadly marburg virus disease, which was reported in Uganda some weeks ago, as one of the biggest threats to global health security.
"Emerging viral diseases such as ebola, marburg hemorrhagic fever and nipah virus pose threats to global public health security and also require containment at their source due to their acute nature and resulting illness and mortality," quoted a summarized version of the 2007 World Health report due to be released in Geneva tomorrow.
Experts say the marburg hemorrhage fever is a rare but severe type of disease that causes generalized bleeding in humans. Its symptoms include sudden onset of high fever, headache and muscle pain and body rash.
The marburg virus is less brutal compared to ebola, which is a severe, often-fatal illness in humans and non-human primates like monkeys, gorillas, and chimpanzees.
High alert has been sounded in Uganda after the marburg virus disease claimed its first victim - Hannington Ssengendo, an employee of Kitaka Goldmine in Kamwenge District - last month.WHO experts are currently in Kamwenge trying to trace the source of the virus.
According to the WHO report, infectious diseases are not only spreading faster, but also appear to be emerging more quickly than ever before. "Since the 1970s, newly emerging diseases have been identified at the unprecedented rate of one or more per year. There are now nearly 40 diseases that were unknown a generation ago and in the last five years, WHO has verified more than 1,100 epidemic events worldwide," the report announced.
Cholera and yellow fever have made a come back in the last quarter of the 20th century while Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) and avian Influenza in humans still remain a big concern to the general health sector, adds the report.
Urbanization and increasing international trade and travel are given as factors responsible for the rapid spread of dengue viruses and their vectors.
To contain the marburg outbreak in Uganda, the government established a multi-disciplinary task force made up of national and international experts similar to one that was established to contain the ebola out break in northern Uganda in 2000. Experts say transmission of the virus is limited to very close contact with blood and body fluids of the infected people.
State Minister for Health Richard Nduhuura said the first cases of marburg were reported in Uganda in 1977 and claimed 19 lives in Nakibembe village in Busesa, Bugiri District.He said worldwide, some 377 marburg cases have been reported since 1967.