The World Health Organization says Friday that preliminary study of samples obtained from two patients in Ghana's southern Ashanti area — both of whom died — revealed positive results of Marburg virus, but they were transferred for further confirmation to the Pasteur Institute in Dakar, Senegal, which collaborates with the UN health agency.
“Preparations for a possible outbreak response are being set up swiftly as further investigations are underway,” WHO said, adding that it is deploying experts to support health authorities in Ghana.
The disease, a highly contagious hemorrhagic fever in the same family as Ebola, is spread to people by fruit bats and transmitted among people through direct contact with bodily fluids of infected people and surfaces, WHO said.
Marburg is potentially very harmful and deadly: Case fatality rates in past outbreaks have ranged from 24% to 88%.
WHO said that if confirmed as Marburg, the cases would mark only the second time that the disease has been detected in West Africa — after Guinea confirmed a single case detected in August.
Previous Marburg outbreaks and individual cases have appeared also in Angola, Congo, Kenya, South Africa and Uganda.