The World Health Organisation (WHO) says preliminary findings of two Marburg virus cases have prompted Ghana to prepare for a potential outbreak of the disease and has mobilised health experts to support the authorities.
Ghana informed WHO of first-ever suspected cases of Marburg virus disease on Thursday. If confirmed, these would be the first such infections recorded in the country, and only the second in West Africa.
Marburg is a highly infectious viral haemorrhagic fever in the same family as the more well-known Ebola virus disease.
“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,” Francis Kasolo, WHO Representative in Ghana, said in a statement on Friday.
According to WHO, 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.
The samples have been sent to the Institut Pasteur in Senegal, a WHO Collaborating Centre, for confirmation.
The two, unrelated, patients from the southern Ashanti region showed symptoms including diarrhoea, fever, nausea and vomiting. They have both died.
Preparations for a possible outbreak response are being set up swiftly as further investigations are underway.
WHO is deploying experts to support Ghana’s health authorities by bolstering disease surveillance, testing, tracing contacts and preparing to treat patients.
The UN health agency will also support Ghanaian’s authorities to work 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 Sept. 16, 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 the Congo, Kenya, South Africa and Uganda.
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 hemorrhagic signs within seven days. Case fatality rates have varied from 24 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.