The Ghana Health Service has confirmed the presence of two cases of Marburg virus disease in Ghana.
It said the two cases were confirmed in the Ashanti Region.
Marburg virus disease causes Marburg hemorrhagic fever — an illness marked by severe bleeding (hemorrhage), organ failure, and, in many cases, death. Marburg virus is native to Africa, where sporadic outbreaks have occurred for decades. The reservoir host of the Marburg virus is the African fruit bat, Rousettus aegyptiacus.
Fruit bats infected with the Marburg virus disease do not show obvious signs of illness. Primates (including humans) can become infected with the Marburg virus, and may develop a serious disease with high mortality. Further study is needed to determine if other species may also host the Marburg virus.
Humans can contract the Marburg virus disease from infected animals. After the initial transmission, the Marburg virus can spread from person to person through contact with body fluids or contaminated needles.
“The disease was suspected following the identification of two persons who met the case definition for an Acute Haemorrhagic Fever in two different locations in the Ashanti Region. Blood samples were sent to the Noguchi Memorial Institute for Medical Research. Preliminary results suggest the infection is due to the Marburg virus,” a statement from the health authority said.
According to the Ghana Health Service, no new cases have been reported; however, 34 contacts linked to the initial two cases have been traced and are currently under quarantine.
“The Ashanti Regional Health Directorate with support from the Ghana Health Service Headquarters is currently conducting further investigations on the cases and contacts,” it said.
Marburg Virus Disease is a rare but severe hemorrhagic fever that affects both humans and non-human primates.
It is caused by the Marburg virus. It is transmitted by infected persons or animals from direct contact with body fluids, blood, and other discharges from the affected person/animal. The incubation period for the disease is two (2) to twenty-one (21) days. Treatment is symptomatic. There is currently no vaccine available.
Prospective cases may present with fever, bloody diarrhea, bleeding from gums, bleeding into the skin, bleeding into the eyes, and, bloody urine.
Experts suspect that both viruses are transmitted to humans through an infected animal’s bodily fluids. Examples include:
- Blood. Butchering or eating infected animals can spread the viruses. Scientists who have operated on infected animals as part of their research have also contracted the virus.
- Waste products. Tourists in certain African caves and some underground mine workers have been infected with the Marburg virus, possibly through contact with the feces or urine of infected bats.
Marburg virus disease signs and symptoms typically begin abruptly within five to 10 days of infection with Marburg virus. Early signs and symptoms include:
- Severe headache
- Joint and muscle aches
Over time, symptoms become increasingly severe and may include:
- Nausea and vomiting
- Diarrhea (may be bloody)
- Red eyes
- Raised rash
- Chest pain and cough
- Sore throat
- Stomach pain
- Severe weight loss
- Bleeding, usually from the eyes, and when close to death, possible bleeding from the ears, nose, and rectum
- Internal bleeding
There is no specific treatment for Marburg hemorrhagic fever. No antiviral medications have proved effective in treating the infection with the Marburg virus. Supportive hospital therapy should be utilized, which includes balancing the patient’s fluids and electrolytes, maintaining oxygen status and blood pressure, replacing lost blood and clotting factors, and treatment for any complicating infections.
Supportive hospital care includes:
- Providing fluids
- Maintaining blood pressure
- Providing oxygen as needed
- Replacing lost blood
- Treating other infections that develop
Experimental treatments are validated in non-human primates models but have never been tried in humans.
- Avoid areas of known outbreaks. Before traveling to Africa, find out about current epidemics by checking the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website.
- Wash your hands frequently. As with other infectious diseases, one of the most important preventive measures is frequent hand-washing. Use soap and water, or use alcohol-based hand rubs containing at least 60 percent alcohol when soap and water aren’t available.
- Avoid bush meat. In developing countries, avoid buying or eating wild animals, including nonhuman primates, sold in local markets.
- Avoid contact with infected people. In particular, caregivers should avoid contact with an infected person’s body fluids and tissues, including blood, semen, vaginal secretions, and saliva. People with Ebola or Marburg are most contagious in the later stages of the disease.
- Follow infection-control procedures. If you’re a health care worker, wear protective clothing, such as gloves, masks, gowns, and eye shields. Keep infected people isolated from others. Dispose of needles and sterilize other instruments.
- Don’t handle remains. The bodies of people who have died of Ebola or Marburg disease are still contagious. Specially organized and trained teams should bury the remains, using appropriate safety equipment.
In 2021, the Ghana Health Service (GHS) directed all its regional offices to be on high alert for the Marburg virus after an outbreak of the disease was recorded in the neighboring West African country, Guinea.
Read the Ghana Health Service’s full statement below: