The Marburg outbreak - Angola

Marburg fever is closely related to the better known Ebola virus. Like it, Marburg is almost always fatal and is easily transmitted through body fluids. There is no cure for the illness, and its first symptoms are easily confused with malaria's symptoms.

The MSF intervention included setting up and managing the isolation unit where patients were cared for, maintaining hospital infection control and reinforcing universal precautions.

MSF also assisted with case finding and contact tracing, ensuring safe burial practices, and maintaining water and sanitation systems, including disinfection, and conducted needed community education and epidemiological monitoring and analysis. While most cases of Marburg were reported in Uige town, emergency units were also set up in Angola's capital city of Luanda; Songo and Negage in Uige province; and Camabatela, Cuanza Norte province.

Given the infectious nature of the disease, MSF teams had to wear extensive bio-safety gear. This clothing was not only uncomfortable to work in but frightened local community members.

While MSF teams initially faced difficulty being accepted locally, and even encountered overt aggression, the organization's efforts to sensitize the community to its work and to understand local beliefs and practices helped ease the situation.

MSF took stock of the lessons learned in its attempt to adopt a sensitive, human approach while still battling one of the world's deadliest viruses.

In July 2005, once the Marburg epidemic was controlled and local health staff could manage sporadic cases, MSF ended its involvement in the Marburg emergency operation.