Ghana has announced its first outbreak of Marburg virus disease after a World Health Organization Collaborating Centre laboratory confirmed earlier findings.
The Pasteur Institute in Dakar, Senegal, received samples from each of the two patients from Ghana’s southern Ashanti region – both deceased and unrelated – who showed symptoms of diarrhea, fever, nausea and vomiting.
The laboratory confirmed the findings of the Noguchi Memorial Institute for Medical Research that the disease was due to Marburg virus.
One case involved a 26-year-old man who was hospitalized on June 26, 2022, and died on June 27. The second case involved a 51-year-old man who reported to the hospital on June 28 and died the same day. Both cases were treated at the same hospital within a few days of each other.
Marburg is a highly infectious hemorrhagic fever that belongs to the same family as the better-known Ebola virus disease. It is only the second time the zoonotic disease has been detected in West Africa. Guinea confirmed a single case as part of an outbreak that was declared over on Sept. 16, 2021, five weeks after the first case was detected.
Meanwhile, WHO has reached out to neighboring high-risk countries to put them on alert.
In a press statement , WHO Regional Director for Africa Dr. Matshidiso Moeti said, “Health authorities have responded quickly and have gotten a head start in preparing for a possible outbreak. This is a good thing, because without immediate and decisive action, Marburg can easily spiral out of control. WHO is on the ground supporting health authorities, and now that the outbreak has been declared, we are committing more resources to the response.
The UN agency said more than 90 contacts, including health workers and community members, had been identified and were being monitored.
Marburg is transmitted to humans by fruit bats and spreads among people through direct contact with bodily fluids of infected people, surfaces and materials. The disease begins abruptly with high fever, severe headache and malaise.
WHO noted, “Many patients develop severe hemorrhagic symptoms within seven days. Mortality rates have varied from 24 to 88 percent in previous outbreaks, depending on the viral strain and the quality of case management. Although there are no approved vaccines or antiviral treatments to treat the virus, supportive care – rehydration with oral or intravenous fluids – and treatment of specific symptoms improve survival.
“A number of potential treatments, including blood products, immunotherapies and drug therapies, as well as vaccine candidates with Phase 1 data, are currently being evaluated.