The announcement comes after two unrelated patients from the southern Ashanti region of Ghana, both of whom later died, tested positive for the virus.
The patients had shown symptoms including diarrhea, fever, nausea, and vomiting, WHO said, adding that more than 90 contacts are being monitored.
Marburg is a highly infectious viral hemorrhagic fever in the same family as the better known Ebola virus disease and has a fatality ratio of up to 88%, according to WHO. “Illness begins abruptly, with high fever, severe headache, and malaise,” it stated.
The virus is transmitted to humans from fruit bats and can then be spread human-to-human through direct contact with the bodily fluids of infected people or surfaces and materials contaminated with these fluids, WHO explained.
The global health body said containment measures were being put in place and that more resources would be deployed in response to the outbreak in Ghana. WHO also warned that “without immediate and decisive action, Marburg can easily get out of hand.”
There are no approved vaccines or antiviral treatments for the Marburg virus. However, a patient’s chances of survival can be improved with care including oral or intravenous rehydration and treatment of specific symptoms, WHO said.
According to WHO, countries at higher risk of a resurgence of the virus have been contacted “and they are on alert.”