Ghana declares end to Marburg outbreak

Tuesday September 20 2022
Marburg virus

Ghana declares an end to its first ever outbreak of the Marburg disease. PHOTO | FILE


Ghana has declared an end to its first ever outbreak of the Marburg disease, nearly two months after the outbreak was declared.

Marburg, a highly infectious haemorrhagic fever disease, is caused by the Marburg virus, which is part of the family of viruses that include Ebola.

The first two cases of infection with the Marburg virus were detected on July 4 and the Ghana Health Service announced them on July 7, following preliminary laboratory tests. That followed the death of two people who reportedly displayed signs of the viral disease.

In line with World Health Organization (WHO) recommendations, further tests were conducted in Senegal and they came back positive days later. Later, a third case was confirmed. The third case recovered fully.

No new cases of the virus have been recorded since then. And according to rules by the WHO, the country was declared free of the virus after 42 days, or two incubation periods, since the last reported case.

The first two cases were recorded in the country’s southern Ashanti region. Some 198 contacts were traced from all three cases and subjected to monitoring and the recommended 21-day observation period.


“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,” WHO Regional Director for Africa, Dr Matshidiso Moeti, said in a statement on Friday, marking the declaration of the end to the outbreak.  

WHO was instrumental in the response efforts, providing technical and clinical support to the Ghanaian health authorities.

Dr Moeti praised the West African nation for providing a rapid and robust response that saved lives despite having no previous experience with the disease.

“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,” she said.

The Ghanaian epidemic was the second outbreak of Marburg disease in West Africa, after Guinea dealt with a single case outbreak between August and September 2021.

Elsewhere in the region, the disease has been recorded in Angola, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Kenya, South Africa and Uganda, according to WHO data.

The world health agency said genomic sequence analyses of the virus from the Ghana outbreak carried out in both Ghana and Senegal revealed that the virus is related to the Guinean case. But, it added, further investigations will be needed to fully understand the origin of this outbreak.

Marburg is transmitted to people from fruit bats and spreads among humans through direct contact with the bodily fluids of infected people, surfaces and materials. The symptoms of infection include high fever, severe headache and malaise.

The outbreak in Angola in 2005 is so far described as the worst Marburg epidemic on record, after 90 percent of the 252 cases died.

In 2018, US and Sierra Leonean scientists discovered the virus in fruit bats in three of the five regions of the country. That was the first time the virus was detected in West Africa. The scientists said the Egyptian rousette fruit bat, on which the virus was detected, is the same type of bat linked to the outbreaks in East and southern Africa, including Angola.

The Sierra Leonean discovery was conducted under a research project called Predict, which was designed to monitor wildlife specimens for known pathogens following the deadly outbreak of the West African Ebola epidemic which mainly affected Sierra Leone, Guinea and Liberia.

That epidemic that began in Guinea and lasted from 2014 to 2016 claimed more than 11,300 lives and with nearly 30,000 people affected in the three neighbouring countries.