As the world attempts to recover from the coronavirus era, yet another virus is starting to spread - this time originating in Ghana. The highly infectious disease, called Marburg, is already causing problems for the country, which confirmed its first two cases on July 17, 2022.
Ghana announced the outbreak after two unrelated patients from Ashanti, a region in the southern part of the country, died after testing positive for the virus. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), the patients had shown symptoms that included diarrhea, fever, nausea, and vomiting. An additional 90 contacts are currently being monitored. But how much do we know about this highly infectious disease called Marburg? It's a a viral hemorrhagic fever in the same family as the Ebola virus disease, and it's quite dangerous. The WHO reports that it has a fatality ratio of up to 88%. "Illness begins abruptly, with high fever, severe headache, and malaise," it explained.
So, how exactly does it spread, and what can we do to avoid becoming infected? According to the WHO, fruit bats transmit the virus to humans, who can then spread it to others through direct contact with bodily fluids of infected people or contaminated surfaces. They further announced that containment measures would be established and more resources would be deployed in order to prevent the outbreak from growing. They also warned that "without immediate and decisive action, Marburg can easily get out of hand."
Although there are no approved vaccines or treatments for the Marburg virus, patients can have better chances of survival with proper medical care. According to the WHO, these may include oral or intravenous rehydration and treatment of specific symptoms. However, the Ghana Health Service still urges people in Ghana to avoid going into or even near mines and caves that may be inhabited by bats. It also recommends thoroughly cooking all meat products to reduce the risk of becoming infected with the virus. The outbreak in Ghana is only the second in the western part of the continent since the virus was first detected in Guinea in 2021. However, other parts of Africa, including Uganda, Kenya, Angola, South Africa and the Democratic Republic of Congo, have all reported outbreaks of the virus. The continent remains on alert as experts work together to tackle this new threat to Africa's population. Stay tuned!