By Sharon Atieno

With no new cases being reported in 42 days (two incubation periods), Ghana has declared the end of the Marburg virus disease outbreak that was confirmed nearly two months ago. It was the first time the highly infectious haemorrhagic fever was detected in the West African country.

In total, three confirmed cases, including two deaths were recorded in the outbreak declared on 7 July 2022 after laboratory confirmation of the virus that affected the country’s Ashanti, Savannah and Western regions.

A total of 198 contacts were identified, monitored and completed their recommended initial 21-day observation period which was then extended for another 21 days out of an abundance of caution by the Ghanaian health authorities.

“Marburg is a frightening disease as it is highly infectious and lethal. There are no vaccines or antiviral treatments. Any outbreak of Marburg is a major concern,” said Dr Matshidiso Moeti, WHO Regional Director for Africa.

“Despite having no previous experience with the disease, Ghana’s response has been rapid and robust. Lives have been saved and people’s health protected thanks to an effective disease detection system that helped to quickly identify the virus and enabled prompt response to curb the spread of infection.”

Marburg is a highly infectious disease in the same family as Ebola and has a high fatality rate of between 24% and 88%. It is transmitted to people from fruit bats and spreads among humans through direct contact with the bodily fluids of infected people, surfaces and materials. Illness begins abruptly, with high fever, severe headache and malaise. Many patients develop severe haemorrhagic signs within seven days.

Genomic sequence analyses of the Marburg virus by Senegal’s Institut Pasteur and the Noguchi Memorial Institute for Medical Research in Ghana suggest that this latest outbreak is related to the case reported in Guinea in 2021. However, further investigations are needed to fully understand the origin of the outbreak, which may be due to a shared animal reservoir or to population movements between the two countries. WHO is supporting the health authorities to carry out ecological studies to increase understanding of the disease and help anticipate and prevent future outbreaks.

Apart from Guinea and Ghana, similar outbreaks have been reported in Angola, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Kenya, South Africa and Uganda.