What Do We Know About Marburg Virus Disease?

After one positive sample, the World Health Organization announced that Equatorial Guinea had confirmed its first Marburg virus outbreak. The outbreak has been responsible for the deaths of nine people and the suspected cases of 16 others.

There have been sporadic cases of the virus in sub-Saharan Africa opens a new tab/window. The rare case of travelers is mostly from countries in Africa.

There is currently no antiviral or vaccine for hemorrhagic fever. This can lead to severe illness and even death.

According to the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare of Equatorial Guinea (MoH), there was a confirmed Marburg virus (MVD) epidemic in the North Western province of Kie Ntem. Two communities from this province have reported one confirmed case, nine deaths, and 16 suspected cases. This is the first-ever MVD outbreak to be declared in Equatorial Gui. It is not yet clear what caused this outbreak. Genome sequencing results are still in progress.

What is Marburg Virus Disease?

MVD, a serious and sometimes fatal illness in humans, is caused by the Marburg virus. Marburg virus is usually transmitted to people by fruit bats. The Marburg virus can be transmitted from person to person by direct contact with infected body fluids or equipment contaminated with infected blood or tissues. There is no vaccine or treatment for MVD.

Therefore, supportive therapy should immediately be started for anyone who has MVD. To prevent transmission, the same infection prevention protocols and control protocols should be applied to other viral hemorrhagic fevers such as Ebola.

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The Ministry of Health and Social welfare, with the support of partners, has established rapid response teams to assist in further investigations. Active case search, contact tracing, and case management continue in the affected communities.

Taxonomy of Marburg Virus

Marburg virus disease is a deadly virus that can be transmitted to humans and non-human primates. It is caused by an animal-borne, genetically unique RNA virus from the filovirus family (the same as the Ebola virus).

Cases of Marburg Virus

In 1967, the first human cases of Marburg virus disease in humans were reported in Marburg, Germany, and Frankfurt, Germany. The Belgrade, Yugoslavia (now Serbia) incident occurred when lab workers who had been handling African green monkeys from Uganda fell ill. This was followed by several family members and healthcare professionals, for a total of 31 cases according to the CDC opens new tab/window.

The subsequent outbreaks were much more severe, with 154 cases occurring in the Democratic Republic of Congo (1998)-2000) and 252 cases reported in Angola (2004-2005). In 2012, there were 15 cases in Uganda. A U.S. tourist who had traveled from Uganda in 2008 developed an illness four days after returning. He was fully healthy and was later diagnosed with Marburg virus disease.

Symptoms of Marburg Virus

Marburg virus disease symptoms can appear suddenly and include fever, myalgia, chills, and headaches. A maculopapular, or prominently on the trunk, the rash may develop around day 5.

Other symptoms include nausea, vomiting, and sore throat. The severity of symptoms can increase and include severe weight loss, jaundice, inflammation, pancreas dysfunction, massive hemorrhaging, liver failure, massive bleeding, and multi-organ dysfunction.

Marburg symptoms are often similar to typhoid fever and malaria. This makes it difficult to diagnose, especially if a case is present.


The CDC estimates that the death rate opens in a new window or tab is between 23% and 90%.

Treatment of Marburg Virus

Marburg virus disease is not treatable with antiviral or vaccine treatments. In the hospital, support therapy opens in a new tab or window and should include balancing fluids and electrolytes, blood pressure and oxygen status, replacement of blood and clotting factors, and treatment for any other complicating infections.

The Marburg Virus Vaccine Consortium opens in a new tab or window (MARVAC) and is evaluating a number of potential treatments, including blood products, immune therapies, and drug therapies, as well as candidate vaccines with Phase I data.

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