WHO declares highly contagious outbreak of Marburg virus in Ghana

The World Health Organization has declared Ghana’s first outbreak of the Ebola-like Marburg virus disease after labs confirmed the infections in two cases announced earlier this month.

The disease, a highly contagious hemorrhagic fever in the same family as Ebola, is transmitted to humans by fruit bats and transmitted among humans through direct contact with body fluids from infected people and surfaces, the WHO said.

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A preliminary analysis of samples from two patients from the southern Ashanti region of Ghana – who both died and were unrelated – proved positive, but was forwarded to the Pasteur Institute in Dakar, Senegal, for full confirmation. That UN health organization lab confirmed the results of the Noguchi Memorial Institute for Medical Research in Ghana, the WHO said in a statement on Sunday.

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The first case was a 26-year-old man who checked into a hospital on June 26 and died on June 27. The second was a 51-year-old man who went to hospital on June 28 and died the same day, WHO said, adding that both men were seeking treatment at the same hospital.

“Health authorities have reacted quickly and got a head start in preparing for a potential outbreak,” said Dr. Matshidiso Moeti, WHO Regional Director for Africa. “That’s good, because without immediate and decisive action, Marburg can easily get out of hand. WHO is on the ground to support health authorities and now that the outbreak has been declared, we are mobilizing more resources for the response.”

More than 90 contacts, including health professionals and community members, have been identified and are being monitored, the WHO said.

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Marburg is potentially very harmful and deadly: the death rate in previous outbreaks has ranged from 24% to 88%.

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This outbreak is only the second time the disease has been detected in West Africa – after Guinea confirmed a single case in August, according to WHO. The outbreak in Guinea was declared more than five weeks later.

Previous Marburg outbreaks and individual cases have appeared in Angola, Congo, Kenya, South Africa and Uganda, the WHO said.

© 2022 The Canadian Press

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