The Marburg virus, a highly contagious illness comparable to Ebola, was found in two Ghanaians who later died, the World Health Organization (WHO) reported on Thursday.
The results of tests performed in Ghana were positive, but a laboratory in Senegal must confirm those findings before the cases can be termed verified, the WHO stated in a statement.
Before passing away at the hospital, the two patients in the southern Ashanti area both had symptoms including diarrhoea, fever, nausea, and vomiting, according to the statement.
This would be just the second Marburg epidemic in West Africa if the cases are verified. In Guinea, the virus was discovered for the first time last year, but no other cases have been found.
“Preparations for a possible outbreak response are being set up swiftly as further investigations are underway,” the WHO said.
Since 1967, there have been twelve significant Marburg outbreaks, primarily in southern and eastern Africa. Depending on the virus type and case care, mortality rates in previous epidemics ranged from 24 to 88 percent, according to the WHO.
Marburg is transmitted to people from fruit bats and spreads among humans through direct contact with the bodily fluids of infected people, surfaces and materials.
Illness begins abruptly, with high fever, severe headache and malaise. Many patients develop severe haemorrhagic signs within seven days. Case fatality rates have varied from 24 per cent to 88 per cent in past outbreaks depending on virus strain and case management.