World Health Organization (WHO) has reported the first outbreak of the sickness caused by the Marburg virus in Ghana. Experts said it is similar to Ebola.
According to the WHO, the illness, a highly contagious hemorrhagic fever that belongs to the same family as Ebola, is transferred to humans by fruit bats and among people by direct contact with the bodily fluids of infected individuals and surfaces.
Marburg has the potential to be exceedingly dangerous and fatal: In previous outbreaks, case mortality rates have ranged from 24% to 88%.
A 26-year-old man who entered a hospital on June 26 and passed away on June 27 was the first case. The second case included a male patient, 51, who entered the hospital on June 28 and passed away the same day, according to WHO, who also noted that both patients sought care at the same hospital.
Samples from two unrelated, deceased patients from Ghana’s southern Ashanti area tested positive in a preliminary investigation; nevertheless, they were sent to the Institut Pasteur in Dakar, Senegal, for further confirmation. The Noguchi Memorial Institute for Medical Research in Ghana’s findings were supported by the laboratory of the UN agency for health, according to a statement released by WHO on Sunday. According to WHO, more than 90 contacts, including community members and health professionals, have been found and are being watched.
“Health authorities have responded swiftly, getting a head start preparing for a possible outbreak,” said WHO Regional Director for Africa Dr. Matshidiso Moeti. “This is good because, without immediate and decisive action, Marburg can easily get out of hand. WHO is on the ground supporting health authorities and now that the outbreak is declared, we are marshaling more resources for the response.”
After Guinea verified a single case discovered in August, this epidemic represents just the second time the disease has been identified in West Africa. After more than five weeks, the outbreak in Guinea was officially announced. According to the WHO, previous Marburg outbreaks and lone cases have been reported in Angola, Congo, Kenya, South Africa, and Uganda.