Marburg Virus Disease

  • Medical Author:
    Charles Patrick Davis, MD, PhD

    Dr. Charles "Pat" Davis, MD, PhD, is a board certified Emergency Medicine doctor who currently practices as a consultant and staff member for hospitals. He has a PhD in Microbiology (UT at Austin), and the MD (Univ. Texas Medical Branch, Galveston). He is a Clinical Professor (retired) in the Division of Emergency Medicine, UT Health Science Center at San Antonio, and has been the Chief of Emergency Medicine at UT Medical Branch and at UTHSCSA with over 250 publications.

  • Medical Editor: Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD
    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD

    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD

    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD, is a U.S. board-certified Anatomic Pathologist with subspecialty training in the fields of Experimental and Molecular Pathology. Dr. Stöppler's educational background includes a BA with Highest Distinction from the University of Virginia and an MD from the University of North Carolina. She completed residency training in Anatomic Pathology at Georgetown University followed by subspecialty fellowship training in molecular diagnostics and experimental pathology.

Marburg virus disease facts

  • Marburg virus disease is endemic in Africa (likely in African green monkeys and certain bats) and can be transmitted to humans.
  • The disease can be transmitted from person to person by exposure to blood and other bodily secretions.
  • Marburg virus disease is caused by viruses that produce symptoms of fever, chills, headaches and muscle aches early in the disease; symptoms worsen and may lead to hemorrhagic fever and death.
  • Risk factors include exposure to African green monkeys and certain bats; in addition, exposure to an infected human is high risk factor.
  • The diagnosis of Marburg virus disease is usually done by specialized laboratories.
  • Treatment is limited to supportive care, usually in an intensive-care unit.
  • Specialists that may be consulted include critical-care specialists, infectious-disease specialists, hematologists, lung specialists, and others.
  • Prevention of Marburg viral disease involves avoiding contact with African animals that may carry the disease and using strict isolation procedures to avoid any bodily fluids or tissues from humans infected with Marburg viruses.
  • The prognosis for Marburg virus disease is only fair to poor; fatality rates vary from about 23%-90%.
  • Complications of Marburg virus infections include eye, nerve, and bleeding problems.
  • Research is ongoing; Africa is experiencing more problems with viral diseases as humans increase their contact with African animals that previously had little contact with humans.

What is Marburg virus disease?

In 1967, laboratory workers, all in the same lab in Marburg, Germany, were hospitalized with an unknown disease. The laboratory workers were exhibiting the same symptoms, including fever, diarrhea, vomiting, massive bleeding from many different organs, shock, and collapse of the circulatory system. In this outbreak, 31 people were infected, and seven died. The source of the infection was traced to a virus infecting African green monkeys that were imported from Uganda, Africa, and were being used for polio vaccine research. This new virus was eventually designated as a new virus family termed Filoviridae. The other members of the family are Ebola viruses (five different species). Filoviridae contain one negative-sense RNA strand and have a covering or envelope composed of a lipid membrane. The disease Marburg virus causes is termed Marburg virus disease.

The most recent outbreaks of Marburg virus disease have occurred in Uganda. In 2012, 15 individuals were diagnosed and four people died (27% fatality rate). Again, the Ugandan Ministry of Health reported on Oct. 5, 2014, that a health-care worker died of Marburg virus disease (formerly known as Marburg hemorrhagic fever [Marburg HF]) on Sept. 30, 2014. The source of his exposure is not clear. This is of interest since Marburg virus is a close relative of the Ebola virus, and both produce clinical signs and symptoms that are often indistinguishable. Health officials said that about 80 people who were in contact with the man who died have been identified and are being were observed for 21 days for signs and symptoms of the disease. No one else contracted the disease.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 3/31/2017

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