Definition of Marburg virus

Marburg virus: The virus that causes Marburg hemorrhagic fever, a disease which affects both humans and non-human primates. The Marburg virus is a genetically unique zoonotic (that is, animal-borne) RNA virus of the filovirus family, and its recognition led to the creation of this virus family. The four species of Ebola virus are the only other known members of the filovirus family.

Marburg virus was first recognized in 1967, when outbreaks of hemorrhagic fever occurred simultaneously in laboratories in Marburg and Frankfurt, Germany, and in Belgrade, Yugoslavia (now Serbia). A total of 37 people became ill; they included laboratory workers as well as several medical personnel and family members who had cared for ill individuals. The first people infected had been exposed to African green monkeys or their tissues. In Marburg, the monkeys had been imported for research and to prepare polio vaccine.

Recorded cases of the disease have appeared in only a few locations. Marburg hemorrhagic fever has a mortality (death) rate ranging from 24 to 88 percent. Marburg virus is indigenous to Africa. While the geographic area to which it is native is unknown, this area appears to include at least parts of Uganda and Western Kenya, and perhaps Zimbabwe. As with Ebola virus, the actual animal host for Marburg virus also remains a mystery.

In 2012 an outbreak of Marburg virus infection was reported in Uganda that led to 9 deaths. In September 2014 a health-care worker in Uganda was reported to have died of the disease. See also: Viral hemorrhagic fever.


Last Editorial Review: 10/17/2014

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