Preliminary analysis of samples taken from two patients by the country’s Noguchi Memorial Institute for Medical Research indicated the cases were positive for Marburg. However, following standard procedure, the samples were sent to the Institut Pasteur in Senegal, a World Health Organization (WHO) collaborating center for confirmation. Photo courtesy of the official website of the World Health Organization in Ghana.
The disease, a highly contagious hemorrhagic fever in the same family as Ebola, is transmitted to humans by fruit bats and passed between people through direct contact with bodily fluids from infected people and surfaces, WHO said. .
Preliminary analysis of samples from two patients from the southern Ashanti region of Ghana, both deceased and unrelated, tested positive, but was forwarded for full confirmation to the Pasteur Institute in Dakar, Senegal. This United Nations health agency laboratory corroborated the findings from the Noguchi Memorial Institute for Medical Research in Ghana, the WHO said in a statement on Sunday.
The first case was a 26-year-old man who presented to hospital on June 26 and died on June 27.
The second was a 51-year-old man who went to hospital on June 28 and died the same day, the WHO said, adding that the two men sought treatment at the same hospital.
“Health authorities reacted quickly, taking a head start in preparing for a possible outbreak,” said WHO Regional Director for Africa Dr Matshidiso Moeti.
“It’s good because without immediate and decisive action, Marburg can easily spiral out of control. WHO is on the ground to support health authorities and now that the outbreak is declared, we are mustering more resources for the response.”
More than 90 contacts, including health workers and community members, have been identified and are being followed up, WHO said.
Marburg is potentially very harmful and deadly: case fatality rates in past outbreaks have ranged from 24% to 88%.
The outbreak marks only the second time the disease has been detected in West Africa, after Guinea confirmed a single detected case in August, according to the WHO.
The outbreak in Guinea was declared more than five weeks later.
Previous outbreaks of Marburg and individual cases have appeared in Angola, Congo, Kenya, South Africa and Uganda, the WHO said.