Concern after two test positive in Ghana for highly infectious Marburg virus

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Two people have died in Ghana after contracting a highly contagious Ebola-like virus, sparking a rush to identify potential contacts and squash the outbreak before it spreads.

It is the first time the country has reported cases of Marburg virus, a haemorrhagic fever with a death rate of up to 88 per cent, and only the second outbreak in West Africa. 

The patients were identified in Ghana’s southern Ashanti region, but only after they had died – raising fears of broader transmission. The virus is transmitted to people via fruit bats, and spreads between humans through direct contact with the bodily fluids of infected people.

“An outbreak of a filovirus such as Marburg is always a serious concern, especially in a setting that hasn’t managed outbreaks before, and when cases are diagnosed postmortem,” said Dr Tom Fletcher, an infectious disease consultant at the Royal Liverpool University hospital.

“Whilst Marburg probably doesn’t transmit as easily as Ebola, delayed diagnosis often means that healthcare workers have been exposed and it’s likely there would be cases. We also don’t have as many tools in the cupboard in terms of diagnostics, treatments and vaccines compared to Ebola,” he told the Telegraph. 

Marburg virus was first identified in 1967 during two epidemics that occurred concurrently in Marburg and Frankfurt in Germany, and in Belgrade, Serbia. The outbreak was linked to laboratory work using African green monkeys imported from Uganda.

Photo – A man from Ghana wearing a surgical mask walks through a market in Accra, Ghana. EPA-EFE/CHRISTIAN THOMPSON 

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