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Marburg Virus: GHS urges Ghanaians to report all suspicious deaths

The Ghana Health Service (GHS) has urged Ghanaians, especially Muslims, to report to health workers all suspicious deaths before embarking on pre-burial activities.

Dr Patrick Kuma-Aboagye, the Director-General of GHS, said this was crucial to the containment and reduction in the infection rate of the Marburg Virus Disease (MVD) or any infectious disease for the safety of all.

He said the act of people embarking on rapid burials was a major challenge, preventing health workers from ascertaining the true cause of death and the necessary mechanisms before burial.

Dr Kuma-Aboagye was speaking to the Ghana News Agency (GNA) in an interview following the case of Marburg virus disease recorded in the Upper West Region.

“Immediately people die, they are buried, so that becomes a challenge. Minimising this kind of rapid burial, especially if you are not sure of the cause of death, will ensure that health workers put in the necessary mechanisms. Adding that prevention could be at the burial site,” the DG
stated.

He said, “Marburg is rare, like Ebola, it is both infectious and kills almost all its victims as it makes them very sick.
“When it catches you, it kills very fast, so there is limited time for transmission, unlike COVID-19, where you can have it and become symptomatic. With Marburg, there is no treatment, and there is no vaccine.”

Providing an update on the woman who lost her husband and her one-year-old child to Marburg, Dr Kuma-Aboagye said the mother who was positive had been isolated as her three-year-old daughter.

He said the Service had provided them with an android phone to aid their communication while minimising contact.

He assured that the country had good systems in place, which was why they were able to detect the virus within 24 hours.

“Our main approach is to identify, detect and contain at the source so that it does not spread. And our surveillance system responded appropriately to that,” Dr Kuma-Aboagye said.

The Director-General said the Service was working with partners, including the Wildlife Division and the veterinary medicines group, to identify the source of the outbreak.

“The most important thing we are doing is working with our partners to look at the source, where did it come from, and how did it come about? We need to know that,” he said.

“The person fell ill in one of the districts in the Western Region and moved to Adansi North in the Ashanti Region for medical treatment and died three days after,” he explained.

Dr Kuma-Aboagye also noted that the GHS, would conduct risk mapping across the country to ascertain whether, apart from the current suspected location, there were other places that could be a potential source.

“We are also looking at all places to see what creates that environment for that disease to exist,” he said, adding, “We are also hoping that subsequently, as part of the sub-regional response, there will be a risk mapping of the sub-region to see where they originate from
because it may have crossed over from one country.”

The GHS has confirmed three cases of MVD in the country, all involving individuals who are closely related- (father, mother and son).

The Director-General urged the public to be wary of places that had caves and fruit-eating bats, and also limit their contact with animals.

“For Marburg, the main reservoir is the fruit-eating bats, monkeys and then it comes to man. There is a way of getting the infection and that is getting into close contact with a positive person, and showing symptoms. So, avoid body fluids contact,” he stated.

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