The Marburg virus causes severe viral haemorrhagic fever, very like Ebola, and comes with horrific mortality rates of anything from 24% to 88%.
People initially catch the disease through spending a long time in places where the bats live, for example mines and caves. African Green Monkeys can also carry it.
Once it infects a human the disease spreads person-to-person, often through nursing the sick without taking the right precautions or by disposing of their bodies unsafely.
How to stay safe from Marburg virus
There is no vaccine against Marburg, nor is there any antiviral treatment. All the medical profession can do is treat the symptoms. Which makes it really important, if you’re travelling to a country where Marburg is common, to know what to look out for and how to stay safe.
Where is there a high risk of Myberg fever?
Since the disease was first discovered, after a freak outbreak in Marburg, Germany, there have been cases in Angola, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Kenya, South Africa (via Zimbabwe) and Uganda.
Symptoms of Marburg fever
- The disease develops 2 – 21 days after infection
- Things start quickly and dramatically: a fever, serious headaches and weakness, often accompanied by muscle pain
- On the third day patients often experience very bad watery diarrhoea, abdominal pain, cramps and vomiting. This can carry on for a week
- The disease soon affects the way you look: ghost-like and drawn with deep-set eyes and an expressionless face
- Many people then develop severe haemorrhagic bleeding, with blood in the vomit and faeces as well as from the nose, gums and vagina
- At the acute stage patients have a very high fever. Central nervous system issues can lead to confusion, anger and aggression
- In fatal cases, death comes 8 – 9 days after the symptoms start, usually because of severe blood loss and shock
Marburg fever diagnosis
Similar to Lassa Fever, Marburg can look very like malaria, typhoid, shigellosis, cholera, leptospirosis, plague, rickettsiosis, relapsing fever, meningitis, hepatitis and all sorts of other unpleasant viral haemorrhagic fevers. This means the only way to tell for sure is by sending samples to a lab, where they’ll carry out the same tests as for Lassa fever:
- The antibody enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay
- Tests to detect antigens
- A reverse transcriptase polymerase chain reaction test
- Isolating the virus in a cell culture
Marburg fever vaccine and treatment
- There is no vaccine – doctors simply treat the symptoms
- Several promising experimental vaccines are being tested, but they’re still years away
- Severe cases need intensive care, intravenous fluids and oral rehydration
- Medical staff will also treat any complications as they arise
How to avoid Marburg fever
The only way to avoid this terrible virus is to take great care in at-risk areas.
- Avoid mines or caves inhabited by Rousettus aegyptiacus or any other bats, to be on the safe side
- Be scrupulously hygienic in everything you do
- Stay away from infected people
- Steer clear of burial ceremonies
- Bear in mind Marburg can also spread via infected semen, as long as seven weeks after the person has recovered from the disease
- Avoid African Green Monkeys
- If you need to be in a place where carrier animals live, wear protective clothing
- Bear in mind pigs can also play a role in spreading the virus even farther once it has infected humans
Special advice for health and lab workers
- Avoid blood and body fluids
- Use rigorous infection prevention and control including hand hygiene and all the appropriate physical protection
- Use good injection practices
- Stay away from dead bodies unless you’re fully protected
- Leave sample taking / handling to the experts
- If you see someone you believe has Marburg fever, tell the authorities immediately
Whatever your travel vaccination needs, we’re here to help with professional advice and all the inoculations you need for your destination and your circumstances.