Alert over new outbreak of Ebola-like disease that causes 90% of patients to bleed to death


HEALTH officials are racing to contain an Ebola-like disease with 90 per cent mortality.

Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) is a rare and deadly disease in people and nonhuman primates. The viruses that cause EVD are located mainly in sub-Saharan Africa. People can get EVD through direct contact with an infected animal (bat or nonhuman primate) or a sick or dead person infected with Ebola virus.

Called the Marburg virus, it causes those struck to bleed to death.

The World Health Organization said Ghana has reported two possible cases of the Marburg virus disease.

The two patients, who sadly died, had been taken to a local hospital with symptoms including diarrhoea, fever, nausea and vomiting.

If confirmed, it would mark the first-ever such infections in the West African country.

Preliminary findings from blood samples for the two cases were positive for Marburg virus, but have been sent to another lab for confirmation. 

The Ghana Health Service said no new cases have been reported since the two samples were taken two weeks ago, but that 34 people who had contact with the cases are in quarantine. 

The WHO said: “Preparations for a possible outbreak response are being set up swiftly as further investigations are underway.”

Experts have been deployed to support health authorities in Ghana, the WHO said. 

No treatment or vaccine exists for Marburg, a very infectious hemorrhagic fever in the same family as Ebola.

It is somewhat less deadly than Ebola, with symptoms including high fever and internal and external bleeding.

The illness starts abruptly, within two to 21 days of infection, causing a high fever, severe headache and muscle aches and pains.

Severe watery diarrhoea, abdominal pain and cramping, nausea and vomiting can begin on the third day, and diarrhoea can persist for a week, the WHO said.

Many develop severe internal bleeding within a week, with blood from the nose, gums, vagina and in vomit and faeces, and die not long after. 

Case fatality rates in past outbreaks have ranged from 24 to 88 per cent.

Marburg is spread to people by fruit bats, with humans usually getting infected after prolonged exposure to mines or caves inhabited by Rousettus bat colonies.

Once a person is infected, they can transmit it to others through skin-to-skin contact, bodily fluids or infected surfaces.

There have been a dozen major Marburg outbreaks since it was discovered in Marburg, Germany, in 1967.

Cases have mostly been in southern and eastern Africa, including Angola, Congo, Kenya, South Africa and Uganda, WHO said.

Only one other time was a case found in West Africa, after Guinea confirmed a single case detected in August. 

The outbreak in Guinea was declared over five weeks later.

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