Ghana Confirms First Marburg Virus Disease Outbreak
Ghana has confirmed the country’s first Marburg virus disease outbreak, after a World Health Organization (WHO) Collaborating Centre laboratory confirmed earlier findings.
The Institut Pasteur in Dakar, Senegal, received samples from both deceased and unrelated patients from Ghana’s southern Ashanti region who had symptoms such as diarrhea, fever, nausea, and vomiting.
The laboratory confirmed the Noguchi Memorial Institute for Medical Research’s findings that their illness was caused by the Marburg virus.
A 26-year-old male checked into a hospital on June 26, 2022, and died on June 27, 2022.
The second case involved a 51-year-old male who arrived at the hospital on June 28 and died the next day. Within days of each other, both cases sought treatment at the same hospital.
WHO has been assisting a joint national investigative team in the Ashanti Region as well as Ghana’s health authorities by deploying experts, making personal protective equipment available, bolstering disease surveillance, testing, tracing contacts, and working with communities to alert and educate them about the disease’s risks and dangers, as well as collaborating with emergency response teams.
A team of WHO experts will also be deployed in the coming days to provide coordination, risk assessment, and infection prevention measures.
“Health authorities have responded swiftly, getting a head start preparing for a possible outbreak. 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 marshalling more resources for the response,” said Dr Matshidiso Moeti, WHO Regional Director for Africa.
More than 90 contacts have been identified and are being monitored, including health workers and community members.
Marburg fever is a highly contagious viral hemorrhagic fever that belongs to the same virus family as the more well-known Ebola virus disease.
The zoonotic disease has only been detected twice in West Africa. Guinea confirmed a single case in an outbreak that was declared over five weeks after the initial case was discovered on September 16, 2021.
Previous Marburg outbreaks and isolated cases have been reported in Angola, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Kenya, South Africa, and Uganda. WHO has contacted neighboring high-risk countries, who are on high alert.
Marburg is transmitted to humans by fruit bats and spreads through direct contact with infected people’s bodily fluids, surfaces, and materials.
The illness strikes suddenly, with a high fever, severe headache, and malaise. Within seven days, many patients develop severe hemorrhagic symptoms.
In previous outbreaks, case fatality rates ranged from 24 percent to 88 percent, depending on virus strain and case management quality.
Although there are no approved vaccines or antiviral treatments for the virus, supportive care, such as rehydration with oral or intravenous fluids and treatment of specific symptoms, improves survival.
A variety of potential treatments are being evaluated, including blood products, immune therapies, and drug therapies, as well as candidate vaccines with phase 1 data.