Ghana has confirmed its first cases of the deadly Marburg virus, a highly infectious disease in the same family as the virus that causes Ebola.
In a statement issued by the ministry of health today, both patients died recently in a hospital in the southern Ashanti region.
Health officials in the West African nation say 98 people are now under quarantine as suspected contact cases. Suspected contact cases include relatives, medics and mortuary workers who came into contact with the two patients.
The World Health Organization (WHO), which is supporting Ghana’s health authorities, has praised the country’s swift response.
“This is good because, without immediate and decisive action, Marburg can easily get out of hand,” said Dr Matshidiso Moeti, WHO’s Africa director.
“There’s a whole multi-disciplinary team in the field trying to ensure that we are able to unearth the real source of this,” Dr Patrick Kumah-Aboagye, the head of Ghana’s health service told BBC Focus on Africa radio.
Meanwhile, Contact tracing and strict infection control measures have been introduced to prevent more fatalities. No treatment yet exists for Marburg – but doctors say drinking plenty of water and treating specific symptoms improves a patient’s chances of survival.
Beyond West Africa, previous outbreaks and sporadic cases have been reported in Angola, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Kenya, South Africa and Uganda, the WHO says.
The virus killed more than 200 people in Angola in 2005, the deadliest outbreak on record according to the global health body.