Diseases Diseases

What Is the Marburg Virus?

Published at 02/07/2012 21:13:13

The Marburg Virus: An Introduction

The marburg virus was discovered in 1967. There were multiple outbreaks in certain laboratories in Germany (Marburg and Frankfurt) and Yugoslavia. This virus is very contagious and causes severe hemorrhagic fever. It is related to the EHF (Ebola hemorrhagic fever) strain. However, it is not as deadly as Ebola. Since the first outbreaks, some instances have been reported. This virus led to 140 deaths in Angola in 2004 to 2005.

This strain is considered to be rare. It is only found on the continent of Africa. The Marburg virus thrives well in a certain host called the African fruit bat (Rousettus aegyptiacus), which is mostly found in Africa. This pathogen travels from animals to humans and vice versa. To this day, no one knows how it transfers from host to humans. Records have shown that the pathogen entered Germany through African grivets that were shipped over for research to develop a polio vaccine. There are also cases where people were infected after they visited caves where African fruit bats live.

When a human is stricken by the disease, the pathogen can be passed by way of their bodily fluids like feces, blood, vomit and saliva. Airborne particles caused by sputum and coughing can also cause the spread of the marburg virus. However, scientists do not believe that one cough or sneeze is enough to contaminate people around the person afflicted by the disease.

Signs and Symptoms of the Marburg Virus

The Incubation period of the virus will last from five to 10 days. The patient will not show any symptoms of being infected. After such time, the patient will develop a sudden flu-like sickness. There will be chills, fever, a headache, vomiting, nausea and general malaise.

Polymerase chain reaction (PCR), virus isolation, antigen-capture enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA) testing and IgM-capture ELISA are used to confirm whether a patient is infected by the Marburg virus. These tests can be done when the symptoms begin to show.


Should the condition be left untreated, jaundice develops. The patient will have bouts of delirium, and liver failure will follow. Hematemesis (vomiting blood) and bloody diarrhea will cause severe hemorrhage. Patients usually die because of liver failure and/or hemorrhage. Since the signs and symptoms are similar to malaria and typhoid fever, those being treated in areas with poor medical support may not survive.


Although there seems to be no cure for the Marburg disease, many of those who have been afflicted have made a recovery. The key is to diagnose it as soon as possible and battle the Marburg virus with supportive care like intravenous fluids to battle dehydration. Making a full recovery can take a long time. The patient may suffer from a number of complications like eye problems (transverse myelitis or uveitis), spinal cord inflammation or hepatitis.

Preventive Measures

Since there is currently no cure, we should be very vigilant about our physical hygieme measures in the event of an outbreak. Although there is an experimental vaccine that is believed to be able to combat the Marburg virus, it will have to undergo strict testing procedures before it can be administered to a human subject.


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