It has been reported that a patient has died in Guinea, from an Ebola-like virus identified in West Africa as Marburg virus.
The virus is said to be highly infectious, and has varied case fatality rates from 24 per cent to 88 per cent in past outbreaks, depending on virus strain and case management.
Currently, experts say there is no vaccines or antiviral treatments to treat the virus. The virus, which has symptoms akin to the novel coronavirus, begins abruptly with a high fever, severe headache and malaise. Many patients develop severe haemorthagic signs within seven days.
The Marburg virus is transmitted to humans from fruit bats, and can then be spread from human to human through direct contact with the bodily fluids of infected people or surfaces and materials contaminated with these fluids.
Though not recorded in Ghana yet, the Ghana Health Service has cautioned all Ghanaians to be on the look out, and protect themselves from the virus. All Regional and District Public Health Emergency Management Committees have also been asked to include Marburg on their agenda.
Additionally, regional and district health facilities, port health units at all border posts, particularly along the Western border, and all landing beaches have been asked to heighten surveillance for Marburg.
Marbug and Covid-19
The virus seems to behave like the Covid-19. Preventive protocols outlined by the GHS to deal with the Marburg are akin to the protocols to deal with the coronavirus. Aside from wearing of face masks and social distancing, which are linked to dealing with Covid-19, protocols for prevention of the Marburg include frequent hand washing with soap under running water or use of an alcohol-based hand sanitizer; not touching items that may have come in contact with an infected person’s body fluids; and avoiding contact with dead bodies, including participating in funeral or burial rituals of suspected or confirmed Marburg cases.
Ordinarily, there should have been no panic in the system if we were all religiously following the Covid-19 safety protocols. However, to the extent that we have thrown caution to the dogs, and behaving recklessly, the detection of the virus on the sub-region should be a source of worry to us all.
It becomes more worrying when the sub-region, including Ghana, is dealing with a third wave of the novel coronavirus, and access to vaccines has become more difficult than initially anticipated.
It is even scarier since both viruses exhibit same symptoms, making it difficult to determine which of them one may be suffering from at a particular time when he exhibits such symptoms.
This is why we at the Daily Statesman believe the Ghana Health Service should do more extensive education on the new virus. Ghana’s handling of Covid-19 earned us international accolades until we began to ignore all the protocols. The extensive education on the Covid-19 that was initially launched with the help of local government partners and other state and private agencies must be rekindled.
The constant update that was used to deal with the Covid-19 may be necessary again in handling this virus. Further, the initial strong-handed handling of the Covid-19 protocols using security agencies may equally be needed to deal with the dual situation we find ourselves in now. That both viruses show same symptoms and their spread can be prevented by the same measures, we believe it is time to enhance our Covid-19 preventive measures as a means of ‘killing two birds with one stone’.
We cannot sit aloof and allow this new virus to visit our shores, and take root in the country like Covid-19.