The Marburg Virus is a type of viral hemorrhagic fever in humans that is severe and can cause death. Viral hemorrhagic fevers are diseases that inhibit the body’s ability to clot. The virus causes a plethora of severe and eventually deadly symptoms. The virus is rare, having only a handful of cases being reported. The Marburg virus is part of the Filoviridae family, the same family that Ebola stems from. Marburg uses RNA as as its genetic material and is an animal borne virus.
When it was discovered:
The first major outbreak of the Marburg virus recorded was in 1967. Outbreaks occurred at the same time in Marburg, where the virus got its name, and in Frankfurt, Germany. There was also an outbreak in Belgrade, Serbia. These three outbreaks affected 31 people and 7 died. The first people to be affected were laboratory workers that came into contact with African green monkeys, which were being used to study polio vaccines, that had the virus. The discovery of the Marburg led to the creation of the Filoviridae family .
Where it comes from and how it is transmitted:
The virus is native to Africa, specifically to Kenya, Zimbabwe and Uganda. It is believed that fruit bats are the original hosts. The Rousettus aegyptiacus, more commonly the Egyptian fruit bat, has been found to carry the Marburg virus. Exactly how the virus is first transmitted from it’s animal host to a human is not yet clear. However, the virus is highly contagious. It can be passed from human to human in a few common ways. It has been transferred because of being in close proximity to infected people, like a hospital or sharing the same home. Also direct contact with bodily fluids, or contaminated surfaces and materials, are also sources of disease.
The incubation and symptoms:
The incubation time varies from 2 to 21 days, with many patients developing symptoms between 5 and 7 days. Like Ebola the virus has a sudden onset. It begins with a high fever, severe headache and a general feeling of sickness. Muscle fatigue and pain is a very common feature as well. By the third day, vomiting, watery diarrhea and abdominal pain can begin and persist for a week. Patients will be incredibly lethargic and appear “ghost-like.” Rashes have also been a reported symptom in previous patients. In fatal cases, hemorrhaging becomes persistent. This bleeding can manifest in different ways. It will commonly start with the nose and gums, and be present in vomit and feces. Eventually, an infected person will bleed from every orifice. Bleeding at the site of IV injections is especially difficult when trying to treat a patient. In late stages of the disease a patient can become aggressive, confused and irritable, due to the toll the virus takes on the central nervous system. Jaundice, multi-organ dysfunction and liver failure also occur as the disease becomes more severe. According to the World Health Organization, patients die from extreme loss of blood and shock within 8 to 9 days of showing symptoms.