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Ghana Allays Fears Over Marburg Outbreak


FILE - World Health Organization epidemic specialists visit a shanty town after an outbreak of the Marburg virus in Angola, April 10, 2005, in Uige. The disease has been found for the first time in West Africa.

Ghana's Health Service says more than a third of the people quarantined after an outbreak of the Marburg virus, a relative of Ebola, have been cleared to leave isolation. Authorities quarantined 98 people this week following two deadly cases of the virus in Ghana.

It is the first time ever the disease has been confirmed in the West African country, although nearby Guinea recorded a single case last year.

The director-general of the Ghana Health Service (GHS), Dr. Patrick Kumah-Aboagye, told VOA that 39 out of the 98 contacts have completed their quarantine.

He said there is no cause for alarm.

“We’ve had 98 contacts; health workers, mortuary workers, family members,” he said. “We’ve randomly tested 13 of them and they have all been negative so far. There is nothing to worry (about) except to know what to look out for and what to avoid.”

Kumah-Aboagye said Ghana’s surveillance mechanism has been on red alert to catch suspected cases of Marburg.

“We have general surveillance for all conditions including Marburg,” he said. “That’s why the system was able to pick it that early. If we didn’t pick it early, it would have spread to other places and it becomes difficult to contain it.

“We have a response team in the regions who are responsible for all these. We also have community volunteers who have been trained to identify any strange disease and report it for immediate response.”

The World Health Organizations said fatality rates for past Marburg outbreaks have ranged from 24 to 88 percent, and there are no vaccines or antiviral treatments.

The WHO, in a statement to VOA, commended local health officials for being proactive in detecting the disease and said it is mobilizing resources to help Ghana control the virus.

“Health authorities have responded swiftly, getting a head start preparing for a possible outbreak,” the country’s WHO representative, Dr. Francis Kasolo, said. “This is good because, without immediate and decisive action, Marburg can easily get out of hand."

Anita Asamoah, an independent public health advocate, said more must be done to educate the public about the symptoms of Marburg and safety measures.

“Awareness should be more in the rural communities,” she said, adding that strictly following precautionary measures will be the best approach against Marburg until there is a vaccine, as well as reporting suspected cases.

Symptoms, Asamoah said, include fever, bleeding, coughing blood and blood in the urine.

Apart from Guinea and Ghana, Marburg has also appeared in Angola, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Kenya, South Africa and Uganda.

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