Accra [Ghana]: Ghana has officially confirmed two cases of the Marburg virus, a highly infectious disease similar to Ebola.
Ghana confirmed its first two cases of the highly infectious Marburg virus disease, the World Health Organization (WHO) said on Sunday in a statement. The announcement comes after two unrelated patients from the southern Ashanti region of Ghana, both of whom later died, tested positive for the virus, reported CNN.
The patients had shown symptoms including diarrhoea, fever, nausea, and vomiting, WHO said, adding that more than 90 contacts are being monitored.
Marburg virus disease is a highly virulent disease that causes haemorrhagic fever, with a fatality ratio of up to 88 per cent. It is in the same family as the virus that causes the Ebola virus disease, according to WHO.
"Illness begins abruptly, with high fever, severe headache, and malaise," it stated.
The virus is transmitted to humans from fruit bats and can then be spread human to human through direct contact with the bodily fluids of infected people or surfaces and materials contaminated with these fluids, WHO explained.
The global health body said containment measures were being put in place and that more resources would be deployed in response to the outbreak in Ghana, reported CNN.
WHO also warned that "without immediate and decisive action, Marburg can easily get out of hand."
There are no approved vaccines or antiviral treatments for the Marburg virus. However, a patient's chances of survival can be improved with care including oral or intravenous rehydration and treatment of specific symptoms, WHO said.
The Ghana Health Service has urged the Ghanaian public to avoid mines and caves occupied by fruit bats and to thoroughly cook all meat products before consumption, to help reduce the risk of spreading the virus. Fruit bats are natural hosts of the Marburg virus, the health service said.
Two large outbreaks that occurred simultaneously in Marburg and Frankfurt in Germany, and in Belgrade, Serbia, in 1967, led to the initial recognition of the disease, WHO reported.
The Ghana outbreak is only the second in West Africa after Guinea detected the virus last year. The patient in the Guinea outbreak also died from the virus. No further cases were confirmed by Guinean health authorities, reported CNN.
In other parts of Africa, previous outbreaks have been reported in Uganda, Kenya, Angola, South Africa and the Democratic Republic of Congo. The Angola outbreak in 2005 was the deadliest with more than 200 people killed.
According to WHO, countries at higher risk of a resurgence of the virus have been contacted "and they are on alert."
Human infection with Marburg virus disease initially results from prolonged exposure to mines or caves inhabited by Rousettus bat colonies.
Once an individual is infected with the virus, Marburg can spread through human-to-human transmission via direct contact (through broken skin or mucous membranes) with the blood, secretions, organs or other bodily fluids of infected people, and with surfaces and materials (e.g. bedding, clothing) contaminated with these fluids.