The West African country of Ghana has confirmed that it is dealing with an outbreak of the highly contagious and deadly Marburg virus for the first time. Two cases have been identified, and both patients have died.
As with an infection related to Ebola, the Marburg virus usually leads to a high fever and internal bleeding. Certain bats and contaminated meat are the main sources of infection. The virus is transmitted to other people through direct contact with blood or other bodily fluids.
Ghana’s health authorities said the two individuals tested positive for the virus on July 10. However, the results then had to be verified by a lab in Senegal in order to make them official.
The patients came from the southern Ashanti region. They suffered from diarrhea, fever, nausea and vomiting, and both later died in hospital.
To minimize the risk of the virus spreading further, the contacts of the two patients have been identified and placed in isolation. None of them would have developed symptoms yet.
This is the second outbreak of Marburg in West Africa. The very first case of the virus in the region was discovered in Guinea a year ago, and that patient also did not survive.
Currently, no drugs or vaccines against the Marburg virus have been approved, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). The Marburg virus can kill a healthy person within a week. The most important thing is to isolate the patients as soon as possible and trace all people with whom they have had contact to prevent further spread.
The Marburg virus is mainly found in central and eastern Africa. The virus gets its name from the German city of Marburg, where it was discovered in 1967. That happened after laboratory workers became ill after contact with infected monkeys imported from Uganda.
Since then, there have been a dozen major outbreaks. The mortality rate is 24 to 88 percent, according to the WHO, depending on the virus strain and the way in which infections are handled.