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Ghana declares end to Marburg virus outbreak

by Haruna Gimba

By Asmau Ahmad

The Government of Ghana has declared an end to the Marburg virus outbreak two months after the disease was confirmed in the country.

The Ministry of Health in the country disclosed this last Friday after no new cases were reported in the past 42 days, or two incubation periods—the time between infection and the onset of symptoms.

According to the Ghanaian authorities, there were three confirmed cases, including two deaths which were recorded when the outbreak was declared on 7 July 2022 following laboratory confirmation of the virus which affected the country’s Ashanti, Savannah, and Western regions.

A total of 198 contacts were identified, monitored, and completed their recommended initial 21-day observation period which was later extended for another 21 days by the Ghanaian health authorities.

The World Health Organisation noted that this was the first time the highly infectious haemorrhagic fever was detected in the West African country.

Marburg is a highly infectious disease in the same family as Ebola and has a high fatality rate of between 24 per cent and 88 per cent.

The virus is transmitted to people from fruit bats and spreads among humans through direct contact with the bodily fluids of infected people, surfaces, and materials. Illness begins abruptly, with high fever, severe headache, and malaise. Many patients develop severe haemorrhagic signs within seven days, WHO explained.

“Marburg is a frightening disease as it is highly infectious and lethal. There are no vaccines or antiviral treatments. Any outbreak of Marburg is a major concern,” Dr. Matshidiso Moeti, WHO Regional Director for Africa said.

She remarked that despite having no previous experience with the disease, Ghana’s response was rapid and robust. “Lives have been saved and people’s health protected thanks to an effective disease detection system that helped to quickly identify the virus and enabled prompt response to curb the spread of infection.”

The genomic sequence analyses of the Marburg virus by Senegal’s Institut Pasteur and the Noguchi Memorial Institute for Medical Research in Ghana suggested that this latest outbreak was related to the case reported in Guinea in 2021. However, further investigations are needed to fully understand the origin of the outbreak, which may be due to a shared animal reservoir or population movements between the two countries.

The WHO said it was supporting the health authorities to carry out ecological studies to increase understanding of the disease and help anticipate and prevent future outbreaks.

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