The Ghana Health Service (GHS) has directed all its regional offices to be on high alert for the Marburg virus.
This comes after an outbreak of the disease was recorded in neighbouring West African country, Guinea, and has already claimed one life in the country.
Marburg virus is a haemorrhagic fever virus of the Filoviridae family of viruses and a member of the species, genus Marburg virus.
Health experts say the Marburg virus belongs to the same family as Ebola, and the virus is considered to be highly infectious.
But the Ghana Health Service says it has tasked all health facilities in the country to initiate preparedness and response plans for the virus.
“We had confirmation from the WHO that they have detected the Marburg in Guinea. Let me say that, the Marburg is not common in West Africa, but this is the first time we have had the Marburg in West Africa. If you look at the location of the case, it means that we need to heighten our awareness and preparedness. So, we sent a communication to all regions to be on high alert”, the Director of Public Health at the GHS, Dr Franklin Aseidu- Bekoe said.
He added that: “what it is, is that we are in a COVID-19 pandemic so if we are not careful, all our minds will be tuned in that direction. The idea is that they should not always be looking at COVID-19, but also broaden their scope, sensitize the public and activate the system in case of a case of Marburg.”
The Marburg virus disease is transmitted to people from fruit bats and spreads between humans through the transmission of bodily fluids.
It is a severe, often fatal illness with symptoms including headache, fever, muscle pains, vomiting blood and bleeding.
The first-ever Marburg outbreak was in Germany in 1967 where seven people died.
In Africa, previous outbreaks and sporadic cases have been reported in Angola, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Kenya, South Africa, and Uganda, the World Health Organization (WHO) says.
Cases are extremely rare, with the last major outbreak in Angola in 2005.
The virus killed more than 200 people in Angola in 2005, the deadliest outbreak on record, according to the global health body.
Preventive measures include:
- Avoid contact with body fluids (such as urine, saliva, sweat, faeces, vomit, breast milk, and semen) of people who show symptoms.
- Practice hand hygiene: frequent handwashing with soap under running water, or use an alcohol-based sanitiser.
- Do not handle items that many have come in contact with an infected person’s body fluids.
- Avoid contact with dead bodies, including participating in funeral or burial rituals of suspected or confirmed Marburg cases.
- Seek medical care immediately (the nearest health facility) if one develops a fever (body temperature 38C or above) or other symptoms such as severe headache, fatigue (feeling very tired), muscle pain, vomiting, diarrhoea, stomach pain, or unexplained bleeding or bruising.