TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — The World Health Organization says two people have died in Ghana’s first-ever outbreak of the Marburg virus disease, an Ebola-like disease found in West Africa.
According to WHO, the two patients sought treatment at the same hospital within days of each other. Both showed symptoms of diarrhea, fever, nausea and vomiting. The Institut Pasteur in Dakar, Senegal, received samples from the patients, both men, ages 26 and 51. Lab tests suggested their illness was due to the Marburg virus.
“WHO has been supporting a joint national investigative team in the Ashanti Region as well as Ghana’s health authorities by deploying experts, making available personal protective equipment, bolstering disease surveillance, testing, tracing contacts 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. In addition, a team of WHO experts will be deployed over the next couple of days to provide coordination, risk assessment and infection prevention measures,” the organization said in a statement.
Marburg virus disease (MVD) is a rare but severe viral hemorrhagic fever (VHF) that can be fatal to humans.
According to the CDC, VHFs are a group of diseases that affect multiple organ systems in the body and may be accompanied by hemorrhage, or bleeding. VHFs are caused by four distinct virus families: Arenaviridae, Bunyaviridae, Filoviridae, and Flaviviridae. Marburg, like Ebola, is a filovirus.
The Marburg virus is believed to be spread to humans by fruit bats and can be transmitted via direct contact with the blood, secretions, organs or other bodily fluids of infected people, and with surfaces and materials contaminated with these fluids, WHO said.
Symptoms of MVD include fever, malaise, body aches, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and internal hemorrhaging.
The average case fatality rate is around 50%, but rates have varied from 24% to 88%, according to WHO.
It’s the first time the disease has been reported in Ghana. There have been other oubreaks in Angola, Congo, Kenya, South Africa (in a person with recent travel history to Zimbabwe) and Uganda, WHO said. There was one confirmed case in Guinea last year, but the outbreak was declared over five weeks later.
“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.