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What is the Marburg virus, the infectious disease detected in Ghana? Symptoms, treatment...

After the first outbreak of highly infectious Marburg virus was confirmed, the World Health Organization is sharing information and advice.

virus marburg

Following the last couple of years dealing with the covid pandemic, news of any new virus grabs attention like never before. In the past, even a serious disease would gain little public awareness if the outbreak took place in another country far from their borders, but as we saw in 2020, viruses can spread far and wide...and at an alarming rate.

With this in mind, as Ghana officially confirmed two cases of the Marburg virus, a highly infectious disease similar to Ebola, health authorities were quick to react and the news hit global airwaves with an extra layer of concern.

What has happened with Marburg virus in Ghana?

its health service said on Sunday, after two people who later died tested positive for the virus earlier this month. Tests conducted in Ghana came back positive on July 10, but the results had to be verified by a laboratory in Senegal for the cases to be considered confirmed, according to the World Health Organization.

"Further testing at the Institute Pasteur in Dakar, Senegal has corroborated the results," Ghana Health Service (GHS) said in a statement.

GHS is working to reduce any risk of the virus spreading, including the isolation of all identified contacts, none of whom have developed any symptoms so far, it said. This is only the second outbreak of Marburg in West Africa. The first ever case of the virus in the region was detected last year in Guinea, with no further cases identified.

“(Ghanaian) 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,” said Matshidiso Moeti, WHO Regional Director for Africa.

Marburg virus: what are the symptoms and how is it transmitted?

The two patients in southern Ghana’s Ashanti region both had symptoms including diarrhoea, fever, nausea and vomiting, before dying in hospital, the WHO said.

There have been a dozen major Marburg outbreaks since 1967, mostly in southern and eastern Africa. Fatality rates have varied from 24% to 88% in past outbreaks depending on the virus strain and case management, according to the WHO.

It is transmitted to people from fruit bats and spreads among humans through direct contact with the bodily fluids of infected people, surfaces and materials, the WHO says.

Marburg virus: how is it treated?

Unfortunately there is currently no effective treatment or vaccine that exists for the Marburg virus.