Understanding the Marburg Virus

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Several African countries have confirmed multiple cases of the Marburg virus. Just recently, the ministry of health in Tanzania confirmed the death of five people due to the virus.

The mortality rate of the virus is approximately 50% although it could be as high as 80% or as low as 20%, making this a highly infectious disease.

This article will teach you everything you need to know about the Marburg virus, from symptoms to spreading and how to protect yourself from the virus.

What is the Marburg virus and where does it come from?

The Marburg Virus Disease (MVD) is in the same family as the virus that causes Ebola called Filovirus (Filoviridae) and originated from monkeys that were brought into a German town called Marburg from Uganda.

The initial record of the Marburg virus was in 1967 in Belgrade, Yugoslavia (Serbia) and Marburg. Outbreaks occurred in both cities at the same time due to monkeys that came from Uganda for laboratory research.

It happened due to handling monkey materials, such as blood, tissues, and cells, which infected the laboratory employees. Seven people were reported dead, and there were 31 cases connected to these outbreaks. 

There have been other documentation that has happened worldwide after the first epidemics.

The majority of these instances occurred in Africa, including South Africa, Kenya, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Uganda, and now Guinea, Ghana and Tanzania.

The virus’s host has not been fully confirmed; however, fruit bats have been linked to carrying the virus. 

How does it spread?

The Marburg virus spreads to a person by fruit bats or from an infected host via body fluids (blood, saliva, organs, or other bodily fluids), contaminated clothing and bedding, or surfaces. 

Being in direct contact with an infected person can result in human-to-human transmission. 

So, what are the signs of an infected person?

What are the symptoms?

An incubation period lasts between two to 21 days during the early stages. Patients will show signs of intense headache, muscle aches, fever, and chills.

Around the fifth day, there may be symptoms of a maculopapular rash that can show up on the chest, back, and stomach.

There can also be nausea, vomiting, chest pain, sore throat, abdominal pain, and diarrhea.

It can further cause hemorrhaging, organ failure, weight loss, jaundice, delirium, and pancreas inflammation while fatal cases can have some form of bleeding in different areas of the body. 

Many of the early symptoms are similar to Ebola, malaria, and typhoid, making them hard to identify.

The average fatality rate for the Marburg virus is 50%, and the lowest recorded is 24%. There is still so much to learn about this virus since a lot is still unknown. 

How can the Marburg virus be treated?

There are no approved vaccines to treat MVD; however, infected individuals have a chance of survival if specific symptoms are treated properly and if supported care is available. 

Patients have a better chance of survival if treated in the early stages by rehydrating and symptomatic therapy. However, no current medical availability offers treatment for the disease. 

Experimental treatments

Currently, there is a Marburg experimental treatment in the works. The experimental treatment may be given for the Marburg virus after symptoms have started to appear.

It is a similar treatment that works for Ebola patients due to Marburg being a close cousin to Ebola.

One experimental drug has appeared to be helpful though it is still unclear if the drug was the only factor that cured the patients or if they would have survived anyway.

The drug is called ZMapp, which includes proteins that interfere with how Ebola attaches and enters an individual’s cells. 

Another drug takes a genetic approach to fight the disease by using bits of genetic material to block Ebola genes from acting. 

Steps to stop the spread

Not having specific treatment or approved vaccines makes it much more important to take cautious steps to protect yourself from the outbreak.

There are many similarities in the symptoms of various hemorrhagic fever diseases in the early stages of catching the Marburg virus, so an individual needs to isolate and avoid contact with other people immediately. 

Steps to protect yourself

The best way to protect yourself is by avoiding infected people and situations, such as going into fruit bat caves.

In addition, the Ghana Health Service’s Disease Surveillance Department recommends not eating bush meat, frequently washing hands, and not handling dead bodies of people with the Marburg virus. 

Steps to contain the outbreak

A host of African countries’ health ministries have been enhancing surveillance for the virus and epidemiological investigations.

There is hope to provide proper screening at entry points in some African countries.

Additionally, other countries need to improve their disease surveillance and laboratory diagnosis to enhance and improve the capacity for a more definitive diagnosis of viral hemorrhagic fever infections. 

Final thoughts

There have been no cases of the Marburg virus detected outside of Africa in the latest outbreak. And the Marburg virus is a cousin of the equally deadly Ebola virus – part of the filovirus family.

It is recommended that you protect yourself from the virus by following the guidelines, and everyone needs to be prepared for any further outbreaks that may occur. 

The best solution is to be alert and stay cautious about any updates. 

Disclaimer: This article is for informational purposes only and should not be used as a substitute for seeking medical attention. If you have any symptoms of the Marburg Virus, it is important to seek medical attention immediately.


Written by: Emmanuel J. Osemota

This article was originally published on August 1, 2022. Updated March 23, 2023.

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