Ghana reports suspected cases of Marburg virus disease

Marburg virus particles, coloured transmission electron micrograph (TEM). The particles at top left are showing the characteristic shepherd's crook shape. This RNA (ribonucleic acid) virus causes Marburg haemorrhagic fever in humans and non-human primates. Symptoms of the rare disease, which is often fatal, include fever, muscle pain, rash, diarrhoea and haemorrhage. The virus was first documented in 1967 when there were simultaneous outbreaks of haemorrhagic fever in laboratories in Marburg and Frankfurt, Germany and Belgrade, Yugoslavia. The outbreak was traced to vervet monkey tissue used in research.
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Ghana has reported two suspected cases of Marburg virus, a highly infectious disease in the same family as the virus that causes Ebola, the World Health Organisation says.

Preliminary analysis of samples taken from two patients by the country’s Noguchi Memorial Institute for Medical Research indicated the cases were positive for Marburg. However, per the standard procedure, the samples have been sent to the Institut Pasteur in Senegal, a World Health Organisation Collaborating Centre, for confirmation

The WHO said the two patients from the southern Ashanti region – both deceased and unrelated – showed symptoms including diarrhoea, fever, nausea and vomiting and they had been taken to a district hospital in the Ashanti region.

Marburg is transmitted to people from fruit bats and spreads among humans through direct contact with the bodily fluids of infected people, surfaces and materials. Illness begins abruptly, with high fever, severe headache and malaise. Many patients develop severe haemorrhagic signs within seven days. Case fatality rates have varied from 24 per cent to 88 per cent in past outbreaks depending on virus strain and case management.

Although there are no vaccines or antiviral treatments approved to treat the virus, supportive care – rehydration with oral or intravenous fluids – and treatment of specific symptoms, improves survival. A range of potential treatments, including blood products, immune therapies and drug therapies.

The United Nations body said preparations for a possible outbreak response were being set up swiftly as further investigations were underway.

“The health authorities are on the ground investigating the situation and preparing for a possible outbreak response. We are working closely with the country to ramp up detection, track contacts, be ready to control the spread of the virus,” said Dr Francis Kasolo, World Health Organisation Representative in Ghana.

“The WHO is deploying experts to support Ghana’s health authorities by bolstering disease surveillance, testing, tracing contacts, preparing to treat patients and working with communities to alert and educate them about the risks and dangers of the disease and to collaborate with the emergency response teams.

“If confirmed, the cases in Ghana would mark the second time Marburg has been detected in West Africa. Guinea confirmed a single case in an outbreak that was declared over on 16 September 2021, five weeks after the initial case was detected.

“Previous outbreaks and sporadic cases of Marburg in Africa have been reported in Angola, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Kenya, South Africa and Uganda,” the WHO’s press statement read in part.

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