fbpx

Following 2 confirmed cases: WHO mobilises for Marburg response

BY: Doreen Andoh
Dr Patrick Kuma-Aboagye — Director General of the Ghana Health Service
Dr Patrick Kuma-Aboagye — Director General of the Ghana Health Service

The World Health Organisation (WHO) is mobilising more resources for the Marburg virus disease response in the country.

This is after the specialised agency of the United Nations responsible for international public health had, through its facility, the Institut Pasteur in Dakar, Senegal, confirmed two suspected cases of the Marburg virus disease in the country.

They are the first to be recorded in the country.

“Health authorities have responded swiftly, getting a head start preparing for a possible outbreak. This is good because, without immediate and decisive action, Marburg can easily get out of hand.

“ WHO is on the ground supporting health authorities and now that the outbreak is declared, we are marshalling more resources for the response,” the Country Representative of the WHO, Dr Francis Kasolo, said.

Results corroborated

He said the Institut Pasteur had corroborated the results from the Noguchi Memorial Institute for Medical Research, which suggested the victims’ [now deceased] illnesses were due to the Marburg virus.

He said the victims showed symptoms including diarrhoea, fever, nausea and vomiting.

Contacts

Dr Kasolo said more than 90 contacts, including health workers and community members, had been identified and were being monitored.

“One case was a 26-year-old male who checked into a hospital on 26 June 2022 and died on 27 June. The second case was a 51-year-old male who reported to the hospital on 28 June and died on the same day. Both cases sought treatment at the same hospital within days of each other,” he said.

Investigations

Dr Kasolo indicated that the WHO was supporting a joint national investigative team in the Ashanti Region as well as the country’s health authorities by deploying experts, making available personal protective equipment, bolstering disease surveillance, testing and tracing contacts.

He said the organisation was also working with communities to alert and educate the public on the risks and dangers of the disease, and to collaborate with the emergency response teams.

“In addition, a team of WHO experts will be deployed over the next couple of days to provide coordination, risk assessment and infection prevention measures,” he stated.

Collaboration

The Director General of the Ghana Health Service (GHS), Dr Patrick Kuma-Aboagye, said the GHS was working closely with the WHO to control any outbreak of the Marburg virus disease in the country.

“The blood samples of the two who had died were sent to the Noguchi Memorial Institute for Medical Research and the preliminary results suggested the infection is due to Marburg virus disease,” he said.

However, he said the blood samples were sent to the Institut Pasteur in Dakar for further confirmation, which had been verified.

Dr Kuma-Aboagye said the two patients from the Ashanti Region – both deceased and unrelated – showed symptoms including diarrhoea, fever, nausea and vomiting.

Spread

The GHS boss said the disease could spread from infected animals such as bats to humans through direct contact with the blood and other body fluids such as faeces of bats and also from an infected person.

“The risk of bat-to-human transmission could be reduced by avoiding exposure to mines or caves occupied by fruit bats colonies.

All animal products (blood and meat) should be thoroughly cooked before consumption,” he said.

No vaccine

Dr Kuma-Aboagye said there was currently no vaccine for the disease and, therefore, appealed to the public to adhere to preventive measures.

He said the GHS was also collaborating with the Wildlife Division of the Forestry Commission to reduce the risk of spread.

Furthermore, he stated that the GHS was isolating all identified contacts for 21 days, the maximum incubation period for the disease while expanding contact tracing.

Dr Kuma-Aboagye said the country’s surveillance mechanism was already on red alert due to COVID-19 response and was capable of picking other suspected cases for the needed actions.

Background

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.

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 most deadly 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."

The WHO said Marburg was a rare but a highly infectious viral haemorrhagic fever in the same family as the more well-known Ebola virus disease.

Case fatality rates have varied from 24 per cent to 88 per cent in past outbreaks depending on virus strain and case management.

Writer’s email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.