Egyptian fruit bat hanging from branch
Egyptian fruit bat hanging from branch

Marburg Virus Detected in Ghana for First Time

Preliminary testing indicates that the two people died from the Ebola-like virus, the World Health Organization says.

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Andy Carstens

Andy Carstens is an intern at The Scientist. He has a bachelor's degree in chemical engineering from the Georgia Institute of Technology and a master's in science writing from Johns Hopkins University.

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Jul 8, 2022

ABOVE: Egyptian fruit bat (Rousettus aegyptiacus) © ISTOCK.COM, FARINOSA

Update (August 2): The WHO announced two new cases of Marburg in Ghana last week, and today the organization announced that one of those cases, a child, has died, Reuters reports. This brings the total number of cases in the country’s outbreak to four and the total number of deaths to three.

Update (July 18): The Institut Pasteur in Senegal confirmed that the two people who died in late June from an Ebola-like virus in Ghana have tested positive for Marburg, reports the World Health Organization (WHO) in a statement issued July 17. The WHO says that more than 90 people who came in contact with the two Marburg cases, including healthcare workers, are being monitored, and the organization is sending more experts over the next few days to help assess risk and prevent further spread of the virus.

The World Health Organization announced yesterday (July 7) that two unrelated people had contracted the deadly Marburg virus in the West African country of Ghana. Both people were taken to hospitals in Ghana’s southern Ashanti region after exhibiting diarrhea, fever, and vomiting, which are common symptoms of the Ebola-like virus. Preliminary testing indicated positive results for the virus in both people, who subsequently died; the WHO says it will confirm the lab results at the Institut Pasteur in Senegal.

“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,” Francis Kasolo, a WHO representative in Ghana, says in the announcement.

See “Bats in Sierra Leone Carry Marburg Virus” 

Egyptian fruit bats (Rousettus aegyptiacus) transmit the highly infectious Marburg virus to humans, who can spread it to others via direct contact with body fluids, including urine, saliva, sweat, feces, vomit, breast milk, amniotic fluid, and semen, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The virus may also be acquired from surfaces, clothing, and bedding that contain infected body fluids.

Previous outbreaks of the disease have occurred in Angola, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Kenya, South Africa, and Uganda, according to the WHO, but the virus first appeared in West Africa last April in the country of Guinea. One person died in that outbreak, which the WHO declared over five months later after no additional cases were reported.

Fatality rates from previous outbreaks vary between 24 and 88 percent, depending on the strain and how the cases were managed, according to the WHO. “Preparations for a possible outbreak response are being set up swiftly as further investigations are underway,” the WHO statement says.

Correction (July 11): The original version of this article listed the animal source of the Marburg virus as fruit bats (family Pteropodidae) and included an image of a type of fruit bat not known as a Marburg reservoir. In fact, Egyptian fruit bats (Rousettus aegyptiacus) transmit the virus. The Scientist regrets the error.