When will it stop? WHO knows….Mick Raven
Ghana has reported its first ever suspected cases of Marburg virus disease (MVD), after preliminary samples taken from two patients who died after showing symptoms were positive for the viral haemorrhagic fever.
- The WHO says it is working closely with Ghana authorities to prepare for a possible outbreak
- Ghana Health Service says no new cases have been reported since the samples were taken two weeks ago
- There are 34 people in quarantine
The samples have been sent to the Institut Pasteur in Senegal, a World Health Organization (WHO) Collaborating Centre, for processing before they are officially confirmed as cases.
The patients, who were both from the southern Ashanti region but were unrelated, showed symptoms including diarrhoea, fever, nausea and vomiting.
They were taken to a district hospital in Ashanti region, but later died.
“No new cases have been reported since the two samples were taken two weeks ago,” the Ghana Health Service said in a statement.
The service said 34 people who had contact with the cases were in quarantine.
The WHO is sending experts to support Ghana health authorities.
“The health authorities are on the ground investigating the situation and preparing for a possible outbreak response,” the WHO’s Ghana representative Francis Kasolo said.
“We are working closely with the country to ramp up detection, track contacts, be ready to control the spread of the virus.”
If the cases are confirmed, this would be only the second outbreak of MVD in West Africa.
A single case was confirmed in Guinea last year.
It was the only case recorded in the outbreak, which the WHO declared over after five weeks.
The WHO is sending experts to Ghana to prepare for a possible outbreak. (ABC News: Chris Gillette)
What is the Marburg virus?
It’s viral haemorrhagic fever in the same family as Ebola.
It’s highly infectious and was initially detected in 1967 after outbreaks in Marburg and Frankfurt in Germany and Belgrade in Serbia.
The WHO says those outbreaks were linked to laboratory work using African green monkeys, which had been imported from Uganda.
But a type of fruit bat, Rousettus aegyptiacus, is considered to be the the natural host of the virus.
“Initially, human MVD infection results from prolonged exposure to mines or caves inhabited by Rousettus bat colonies,” a WHO fact sheet says.
“The Marburg virus is transmitted to people from fruit bats and spreads among humans through human-to-human transmission.”
What are the symptoms?
Symptoms may include:
- abdominal pain
- muscle aches and pains
- non-itchy rash
- bloody stools
- vomiting blood
- bleeding from the nose, gums, and vagina
- spontaneous bleeding at venepuncture sites
- inflammation of the testicles
- confusion, irritability and aggression
The average fatality rate for the virus is about 50 per cent.
The WHO’s data from past outbreaks shows case fatality rates varying between 24 and 88 per cent, which takes into account cases of different strains and treatments.
Most Marburg deaths occur between eight and nine days after the onset of symptoms, according to the WHO, usually after the patient suffers “severe blood loss” and goes into shock.
How does it spread?
Human-to-human transmission occurs though direct contact — via broken skin or mucous membranes — with blood, secretions, or other bodily fluid of people infected with the virus.
It also spreads via contact with surfaces contaminated with these fluids.
The WHO says it can spread via contaminated clothing and bedding used by a MVD patient and burial ceremonies that involve direct contact with the body of a deceased patient.
How is it treated?
The WHO says there’s “no proven treatment available” for MVD, with no vaccine or approved antiviral treatments.
But a patient’s chances of survival can be improved by treatment of specific symptoms and rehydration via oral or intravenous fluids.
The WHO says treatments involving blood products, immune therapies and drug therapies are being evaluated.