WHO declares new virus outbreak — Analysis

Two cases of Marburg virus disease in Ghana have been confirmed by the World Health Organization. It is the first instance of Ebola virus-like symptoms in Ghana and the second in this region.

According to the WHO, two blood samples from people in Ghana’s southern Ashanti Region last month suggest they had both the Marburg disease. 

The symptoms of diarrhea, fever and nausea were all present in both patients. They died the next day after being admitted to hospital late June. The 26-year-old patient was the oldest, while the 51 year old one was the youngest.

The WHO and local health authorities have identified more than 90 contact information for the patients. According to the global health agency, Ghana is receiving protective equipment as well. It also supports disease surveillance and testing.

“Health authorities have responded swiftly, getting a head start preparing for a possible outbreak. Marburg’s situation could quickly get out of control without prompt and decisive intervention. WHO is on the ground supporting health authorities and now that the outbreak is declared, we are marshaling more resources for the response,”“Dr Matshidiso Moeti is the WHO Regional Director Africa.”

WHO describes the Marburg virus as an infectious viral hemorhagic fever that is similar to Ebola. This disease is transmitted from fruit bats to human beings. It can also be spread by direct contact between infected individuals, surfaces and materials.

An illness that can cause severe internal or external bleeding is characterized by a rapid onset, high fever, and extreme headaches. It’s also noted that many patients develop severe internal or external bleeding within seven days of being infected. 

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“The public is therefore advised to avoid caves inhabited by bat colonies and to cook all meat products thoroughly before consumption,”Ghanaian authorities on health advised.

Although case fatalities have ranged from 24% up to 88% depending on strains of the virus in previous outbreaks, there is no currently approved antiviral or vaccine. In order to increase survival rates, doctors will only provide supportive care. This includes rehydration via intravenous fluids or oral.

Germany saw the Marburg disease’s first reported outbreak in 1967. The WHO reports that outbreaks of the Marburg virus and occasional cases have been reported in Angola (Democratic Republic of the Congo), Kenya, South Africa, Uganda, and South Africa.

Angola was the site of the deadliest epidemic, with more than 200 deaths from this deadly disease in 2005.

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