Marburg: WHO confirms Ebola ‘cousin’ virus outbreak in Ghana

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The Ghana Health Service (GHS) officially confirmed on Sunday (7/17) two cases of the Marburg virus, a highly infectious disease similar to Ebola, after two people had symptoms such as diarrhea, fever, nausea and vomiting, before dying in hospital

Tests carried out in the country 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 (WHO).

Representatives of the GHS said they are working to reduce any risk of the virus spreading, including isolating all identified contacts, none of whom have developed symptoms so far.

“Ghanaian health authorities responded quickly, getting ahead of the curve in preparation for a possible outbreak. This is good because without immediate and decisive action, Marburg can easily spiral out of control,” said WHO Regional Director for Africa Matshidiso Moeti.

Read too: Marburg virus: the hemorrhagic fever detected in Guinea that does not yet have a vaccine

Marburg: WHO confirms Ebola 'cousin' virus outbreak in Ghana

Disease history

This is the second Marburg outbreak in West Africa. The first case of the virus was detected last year in Guinea, with no further cases identified.

Since 1967, a dozen major outbreaks of Marburg have been recorded, mostly in southern and eastern Africa. Mortality rates have ranged from 24% to 88% in previous outbreaks, depending on the virus strain and case management, according to the WHO.

Most previous epidemics of Marburg and Ebola virus infections originated in Central and West Sub-Saharan Africa. Past epidemics were rare and sporadic, being partially contained because they occurred in isolated areas.

Spread to other areas, when it occurs, often results in travelers returning from Africa. But in 1967, a small epidemic of Marburg hemorrhagic fever occurred in Germany and Yugoslavia among laboratory workers who were exposed to imported green monkey tissue.

more about the virus

Marburg and Ebola viruses are filamentous filoviruses distinct from each other, but they cause clinically similar illnesses characterized by hemorrhagic fevers and capillary leakage. However, the Ebola virus infection is a little more virulent.

Transmission of Marburg virus by infected semen was confirmed within seven weeks after clinical recovery. Ebola virus genetic material persists for a year or more in the semen of 63% of men who have recovered. However, PCR tests cannot determine whether the Ebola virus present is alive and can spread the disease.

However, a man transmitted the virus to his female partner >500 days after showing initial symptoms of infection, indicating that there may be persistence and transmission of the infectious virus. It is possible that Ebola is transmitted through sexual contact or other contact with semen.

Know more: Whitebook: Ebola virus infection

Symptoms and incubation period

The virus causes hemorrhagic fever, being highly infectious, from the same family as Ebola. The disease is transmitted by bats and spreads between humans through direct contact with the bodily fluids of infected people, surfaces and materials.

The incubation period is from two to 21 days. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, common symptoms associated with the condition include:

  • Fever;
  • Goosebumps;
  • headache;
  • Myalgia;
  • skin irritation;
  • Nausea;
  • Chest pain;
  • Sore throat;
  • Stomachache;
  • Diarrhea;
  • Jaundice;
  • Pancreatic inflammation;
  • Extreme weight loss;
  • disorientation;
  • Shock;
  • Liver failure;
  • extensive bleeding;
  • Malfunction of various organs.

While there are no approved vaccines or antiviral treatments to treat the virus, supportive care using rehydration with oral or intravenous fluids in addition to treating specific symptoms improves the chances of survival. A number of potential treatments and vaccines still in the early stages of testing are being evaluated.

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