Update 18/07/2022: The WHO confirmed Ghana's first outbreak of Marburg virus disease on July 17. Samples sent to the Institut Pasteur in Dakar confirmed the presence of the virus in two patients, both of whom have since died.
Ghana has reported its first-ever cases of the Ebola-like Marburg virus disease, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).
A first glance of samples taken from two people by the Noguchi Memorial Institute for Medical Research indicated the cases were positive for Marburg, but the samples are still awaiting confirmation from the WHO-linked lab at the Institut Pasteur in Senegal.
If confirmed, the two cases in Ghana it would be the first time the virus has been confirmed in the country, but the second time Marburg has been detected in West Africa. The first occurred in 2021 when Guinea confirmed a single deadly case.
Previous outbreaks of the disease have been seen in Angola, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Kenya, South Africa, and Uganda.
Marburg virus disease is not good news. It's a highly infectious viral hemorrhagic fever in the same family as the Ebola virus disease. People infected with the virus will start to show symptoms abruptly, including high fever, severe headache, extreme tiredness, and muscle aches.
By day three, patients can expect to see severe watery diarrhea, abdominal pain, stomach cramps, nausea, and vomiting. People at this stage are often said to take on a “ghost-like” appearance, with drawn features, deep-set eyes, blank facial expressions, and extreme lethargy.
Eventually, fresh blood will appear in the vomit and faces, along with bleeding from the nose, gums, and vagina. This is often accompanied by a sky-high fever, confusion, irritability, and aggression.
In fatal cases, death usually occurs between 8 and 9 days after symptoms first emerge, typically as a result of severe blood loss and shock. It’s a shockingly deadly disease, with a fatality rate of up to 88 percent.
There are currently no vaccines or antiviral treatments approved for Marburg virus disease, although early treatment of symptoms and rehydration can significantly improve a patient’s chance of survival.
Marburg virus was first described in 1967 after at least 32 people fell ill in the German cities of Marburg and Frankfurt, and Belgrade in Yugoslavia (now Serbia). All cases were traced back to laboratories in the three cities that had recently imported a shipment of infected African green monkeys from Uganda.
As this suggests, the virus can infect non-human primates too, but it’s thought the virus originated within Egyptian fruit bats (Rousettus aegyptiacus) that can be found in pockets across Africa and parts of the Middle East.