NOS News•yesterday, 22:37
Ghana is experiencing an outbreak of the rare and deadly Marburg virus, the World Health Organization (WHO) reported after two confirmed infections earlier this month. It is the first time that the West African country has been confronted with an outbreak of this virus, which bears great similarities to Ebola.
Like Ebola, the Marburg virus is highly contagious and leads to a so-called hemorrhagic fever, which is accompanied by heavy bleeding from the body orifices. It is potentially very fatal – also depending on the available medical care – between 24 and 88 percent of patients died in previous outbreaks.
The Marburg virus is spread to humans through bats. As with Ebola, people transfer it to each other through bodily fluids such as blood and saliva. The virus was discovered in 1967 when laboratory personnel, especially in Marburg, Germany, contracted the disease after contact with infected tissue from monkeys from Uganda.
Two patients died
The outbreak in Ghana has now been confirmed on samples from two patients from the Ashanti region, in southern Ghana. The men, ages 26 and 51, who were unrelated, died of the virus at the end of June – days after their admission or treatment in hospital. According to the WHO, they were treated in the same hospital.
“Health authorities have responded quickly, building a head start to prepare for a potential outbreak,” said Matshidiso Moeti, WHO’s regional director for Africa. “This is good, because without immediate and decisive action, Marburg can easily get out of hand.”
Source and contact research
The WHO is present in Ghana to further assist the health authorities. Now that there is an outbreak, more resources are being made available for this.
Source and contact research in response to the two infections has identified more than 90 people who are now being closely monitored. It concerns healthcare employees and people from the environment of the two deceased patients.
Last year outbreak in Guinea
Although this is the first known outbreak of the virus in Ghana, it is not the first outbreak in West Africa. Last year, Guinea was briefly declared an outbreak by the WHO after one case. Further afield, outbreaks have previously been declared in Angola, Congo, Kenya, South Africa and Uganda.