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Multiple Cases of Deadly Marburg Virus Confirmed in Ghana

 In Ghana, two instances of the fatal Marburg virus were identified yesterday. The West African nation said that both patients died of Marburg, a member of the Ebola family of deadly diseases.

The patients died in a hospital in the southern Ashanti area of Ghana, and earlier this month, a laboratory in Senegal confirmed that they had contracted Marburg.

The first patient was a 26-year-old guy who was admitted to the hospital on June 26 and died the following day; the second patient was a 51-year-old man who was admitted on June 28 and died the same day.

Multiple Cases of Deadly Marburg Virus Confirmed in Ghana

Due to the devastating and contagious nature of the disease, 98 close contacts of the deceased, including healthcare staff and members of the community, are currently confined and being monitored for Marburg virus.

Marburg is an uncommon, highly contagious viral hemorrhagic illness. The Marburg virus suddenly manifests as fever, severe headache, and muscle pains, but within three days it produces diarrhea, nausea, vomiting, and significant blood loss. Typically, death occurs between 8 and 9 days after the onset of hemorrhaging and multiorgan failure.

This is the first Marburg epidemic documented in Ghana, but the virus has already killed hundreds of people, predominantly in Kenya, South Africa, Uganda, Zimbabwe, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

The virus is typically spread by Egyptian fruit bats, African green monkeys, and African pigs. The Marburg virus is transmitted between humans by bodily fluids and contaminated bedding. Family members and healthcare professionals who care for infected individuals are at the greatest risk of catching the virus.

In 2008, a Dutch woman died of Marburg after visiting Uganda, the same year an American acquired the virus and recovered. Marburg is extremely rare outside of Africa. Both travelers had visited a cave inhabited by fruit bats in a Ugandan national park.

In 1967, the first Marburg virus outbreak occurred in Germany, killing 7 and infecting 29. In 2005, Angola experienced the most severe outbreak, which resulted in 374 cases and 329 deaths. On average, the virus kills 50 percent of those it infects, but the most lethal variants have killed up to 88 percent.

Months after catching Marburg, infected individuals can infect others via blood or sperm. The body of an infected individual might be infectious even after death.

While there is neither a vaccination nor a therapy for Marburg, adequate hydration and the treatment of certain symptoms can significantly increase a patient's chance of survival.

"Health authorities have reacted fast and initiated preparations for a potential outbreak. Without urgent and decisive action, Marburg can quickly spiral out of control, according to Matshidiso Moeti, regional director for Africa at the World Health Organization (WHO).