Marburg virus disease was detected in two men in southern Ghana, both of whom died after seeking treatment late last month.
The two patients had no connection and the cases made the World Health Organization (WHO) declare an outbreak in the country.
According to local authorities, more than 90 contacts of the two cases have been identified and are being monitored to see if they will show symptoms.
What is Marburg virus?
Marburg virus is the causative agent of Marburg virus disease (MVD), which causes severe viral hemorrhagic fever in humans.
A cousin of Ebola, the Marburg virus is in the Filoviridae (phyllovirus) family. It is highly infectious and often leads to death. In previous outbreaks, death rates ranged from 24% to 88%.
The virus was initially detected in 1967 after outbreaks in Marburg and Frankfurt in Germany and Belgrade in Serbia. The WHO says these outbreaks were linked to laboratory work using African green monkeys, imported from Uganda.
In 2005, the virus killed more than 200 people in Angola, in what was considered the deadliest outbreak on record, according to the WHO.
What are the symptoms?
Symptoms can include:
- abdominal pain
- muscle aches
- bloody stool and vomit
- bleeding from the nose, gums and vagina
- spontaneous bleeding at venipuncture sites
- inflammation of the testicles
- confusion, irritability and aggression.
Most deaths from Marburg occur between eight and nine days after the onset of symptoms, according to the WHO, usually after the patient has suffered “severe blood loss” and has gone into shock.
It may be difficult to clinically distinguish MVD from other infectious diseases such as malaria, typhoid, meningitis, and other viral hemorrhagic fevers. Confirmation that the symptoms are caused by Marburg virus infection is done by laboratory tests from the collection of biological samples from the patient.
How is the Marburg virus transmitted?
Marburg virus is transmitted to humans through fruit bats. And, between people, through direct contact with bodily fluids, surfaces and infected materials such as bedding with these fluids.
There is still no treatment for Marburg, but doctors say drinking lots of water and treating specific symptoms improves a patient’s chances of survival.