The Marburg virus was first identified in 1967, when 31 people became sick in Germany and Yugoslavia in an outbreak that was eventually traced back to laboratory monkeys imported from Uganda.
Marburg virus causes symptoms similar to Ebola, beginning with fever and weakness and often leading to internal or external bleeding, organ failure and death. The death rate runs as high as 80 percent, although it was significantly lower in the initial outbreak when patients were cared for in relatively modern, European hospitals.
Facts about Marburg:
Ebola and Marburg are the exclusive members of the Filo virus of hemorrhagic fevers.
Marburg has an incubation period of five to 10 days, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. After that, infected individuals can develop a severe headache, myalgia, a fever and chills. Like Ebola, those initial symptoms are similar to many other diseases, including malaria.
After a few days, the symptoms worsen. They can include nausea, vomiting, chest pain, a sore throat, abdominal pain, diarrhea and a rash. Eventually, severe cases progress to “jaundice, inflammation of the pancreas, severe weight loss, delirium, shock, liver failure, massive hemorrhaging and multi-organ dysfunction,” the CDC explains.
There’s a huge range in the disease’s fatality rate in previous outbreaks, from 23 percent to 90 percent.
Marburg, like Ebola, is not an airborne virus. The disease is spread through direct contact with the blood, tissues or bodily fluids of an infected person or, as has happened in many cases before, an infected primate or fruit bat.
Although Marburg seems to have its origin in and around Uganda, the first outbreak was actually in Europe: In 1967, laboratory workers in Germany and what was then Yugoslavia fell ill after handling African green monkeys imported from Uganda. There were 31 reported human cases and seven deaths, according to the CDC.
In 1998, a larger-scale outbreak of Marburg infected 154 people, killing 128. Most of those infected were young males working in a gold mine there, according to the CDC. Another large outbreak in Angola infected 252 people and killed 227 in 2004.
Once a human catches the disease from an animal vector, it spreads person to person through direct contact. Often, as with Ebola, the people who care for human victims of Marburg are at the highest risk of becoming infected themselves.
There is no specific treatment for Marburg, nor is there a proven vaccine or cure. World Health Organization recommends general supportive therapy for hospitalized patients.