Ghana now has its first outbreak of deadly Marburg virus

Ab electron microscope image of the Marburg virus.

Ab electron microscope image of the Marburg virus.
Image: CDC/Frederic Murphy

A deadly cousin of the Ebola virus has made its way to a new part of the world. This week, officials from the World Health Organization announced that the African nation of Ghana is currently experiencing its first documented outbreak of Marburg. At least two people have contracted the disease so far, both of whom have deceased.

Marburg is caused by the Marburg virus, named after the german city where one of the first documented epidemics of the virus occurred in 1967 – an epidemic that was triggered when laboratory workers were exposed to monkeys imported from Africa. Its usual host is the African fruit bat (Rousettus aegyptiacus).

Marburg and Ebola belong to the same filovirus family and cause very similar symptoms in humans. These symptoms initially include a flu-like illness, followed by a rash, vomiting, abdominal chest pain, and diarrhea. The infection can then quickly become life-threatening, causing internal bleeding, organ failure and shock. Its mortality rate can vary from 23% to more than 90%.

Marburg spilled over to humans with much less frequency than Ebola. The largest documented outbreak of Marburg occurred in Angola between 2004 and 2005 and caused more than 200 deaths. Ebola the greatest epidemicabove all in West Africa, sickened around 30,000 people and killed 11,000 from 2014 to 2016. OrGreater familiarity with Ebola has allowed us to develop effective antivirals and a vaccine against it, whereas no such specific option currently exists for Marburg. This is the second time Marburg has been documented in West Africa in as many years, following a single case reported in Guinea in September 2021.

The two cases in Ghana were not linked to each other, but the two victims lived in the southern Ashanti region. They had also sought treatment at the same hospital a few days apart in late June. Samples from each patient were tested by two laboratories, one of which is affiliated with the WHO, and both confirmed the presence of Marburg.

“Health authorities reacted quickly, getting a head start in preparing for a possible outbreak. This is a good thing because without immediate and decisive action, Marburg can easily spiral out of control,” said Matshidiso Moeti, WHO Regional Director for Africa, in a statement. statement.

More than 90 contacts of the patients have been identified by authorities, including health workers, and are currently being monitored.

“WHO is on the ground supporting health authorities and now that the outbreak is declared, we are mustering more resources for the response,” Moeti said.

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