JUL 18, 2022 8:08 AM PDT

Two Cases of Deadly Marburg Virus Identified in Ghana

WRITTEN BY: Carmen Leitch

For the first time, Marburg virus has been detected in Ghana after two people died from the disease. Marburg virus is single-stranded RNA virus, and is a member of Filoviridae, the same family as Ebola virus. These viruses both cause hemorrhagic fever.

Colorized transmission electron micrograph of Marburg virus particles (blue) harvested from infected VERO E6 cell supernatant. Image captured and color-enhanced at the NIAID Integrated Research Facility in Fort Detrick, Maryland. Credit: NIAID

Marburg can have an incubation period of anywhere from two to 21 days, but once it starts, the symptoms ramp up quickly. The virus causes a high fever, pain, and headaches. By day three, gastrointestinal symptoms start, and diarrhea may last for a week. Hemorrhaging may start on day seven, and patients might start bleeding from multiple places. These cases are usually fatal.

While there have been few outbreaks of the disease, Marburg virus can have an extremely high fatality rate of 88 percent. In other outbreaks, the fatality rate has been much lower at 24 percent. There are no vaccines or treatments for the virus itself, but symptoms can sometimes be treated, and fatalities have been prevented this way.

Scientists became aware of Marburg virus after the first outbreaks, which happened simultaneously in Germany and Serbia in 1967. Laboratories there were working with monkeys imported from Africa. There have been other infections since then, with only a handful of people sporadically sickened by the virus. Typically, people only get sick after they spend time in caves or mines where Rousettus bat colonies live. The bats naturally harbor the virus.

People infected with Marburg can spread the disease to others when a healthy person comes into direct contact, such as through a cut on the skin, with body fluids like blood or saliva from an infected person, or when there is direct contact with surfaces that have been contaminated by infected fluids.

Ghana is working to get the virus under control quickly. Both infected individuals went to the same hospital. One died the same day of their initial visit, the other died the next day. There are now 98 people under quarantine, and so far, no other cases have been identified in Ghana.

The World Health Organization (WHO) has declared the first Marburg outbreak in Ghana. “Health authorities have responded swiftly, getting a head start preparing for a possible outbreak,” said Dr. Matshidiso Moeti, WHO regional director for Africa. “This is good because without immediate and decisive action, Marburg can easily get out of hand. WHO is on the ground supporting health authorities and now that the outbreak is declared, we are marshaling more resources for the response.”

Sources: The Guardian, WHO

About the Author
Bachelor's (BA/BS/Other)
Experienced research scientist and technical expert with authorships on over 30 peer-reviewed publications, traveler to over 70 countries, published photographer and internationally-exhibited painter, volunteer trained in disaster-response, CPR and DV counseling.
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