Belief in Witchcraft Complicates Current Marburg Outbreak in Uganda

Published by:

The most recent outbreak of Marburg Viral Disease (MVD) in Uganda has now claimed the lives of three people with as many as six ill (depending on the news resource). Attached to the outbreak is a curious superstition, explained in a recent update from the World Health Organization:

In the ongoing Marburg Virus Disease (MVD) outbreak in Kween district eastern Uganda, community engagement responders are faced with several rumours, misinformation and strong negative beliefs that seem to underpin outbreak.Most prominent is witchcraft which many believe is responsible for the deaths that have lately occurred in their community. For instance, family members of the probable and confirmed cases are convinced that their people were bewitched by their step mother who comes from a neighbouring tribe and with whom they have had a longstanding land feud. So firm is their belief that they planned to attack and kill her and her children had it not been for the timely intervention by members of the district health team.

Source: Rumours, Misinformation and Negative Beliefs underpin the Current Marburg Outbreak in Uganda | WHO | Regional Office for Africa

Couple this strange bit of news with the reports coming out of Uganda, regarding ‘dancing with the dead’ as a means of transmission for pneumonic and bubonic plague, and you get a recipe for a major healthcare crisis in both regions.

Plague Continues in Madagascar

Published by:

According to today’s update at Outbreak News Today, the number of those who’ve contracted the disease now approaches 2,000 with nearly 150 dead. Most of the cases are pneumonic plague, which affects the lungs and can be rapidly and efficiently spread through coughing.

A major factor for transmission centers on a ritual performed for dead ancestors within some Madagascar tribes, where the dead are exhumed and re-dressed. These corpses are then used in a ‘dancing’ ceremony, which is designed to permit the ancestor access to the realm of the dead.

World Health Organization officials are pleading with tribal leaders to put an end to this practice, as it provides opportunity for spreading the plague bacterium.