The World Health Organization (WHO) has deployed a team of experts to support Ghanaian health workers and prepare for a possible outbreak of Marburg virus, a highly infectious disease in the same family as the virus that causes Ebola.
The WHO experts are to support Ghana’s health authorities by bolstering disease surveillance, testing, tracing contacts, preparing to treat patients and working with communities to alert and educate them about the risks and dangers of the disease and collaborate with the emergency response teams.
Ghana has reported two suspected cases of the virus. It came after preliminary tests done in the country on two patients, who have since died, came back positive for the virus.
The samples have been taken to the Institut Pasteur in Senegal for further tests, said Dr Francis Kasolohe, the World Health Organization's representative in Ghana.
"The two patients from the southern Ashanti region - both deceased and unrelated - showed symptoms including diarrhoea, fever, nausea and vomiting. They had been taken to a district hospital in the Ashanti region," he said.
“The health authorities are on the ground investigating the situation and preparing for a possible outbreak response. We are working closely with the country to ramp up detection, track contacts, be ready to control the spread of the virus.”
If confirmed, these would be the first cases recorded in the country and the second in West Africa. Guinea confirmed one case last year.
Marburg is transmitted to people from fruit bats and spreads between humans through bodily fluids.
No vaccine or treatments exist and those diagnosed with Marburg are usually advised to drink plenty of water as doctors treat a patient’s specific symptoms.
Previous outbreaks and sporadic cases of Marburg in Africa have been reported in Angola, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Kenya, South Africa and Uganda.