Travel Health Service Marburg Virus Disease
Travel related diseases

Marburg Virus Disease

What is Marburg Virus Disease?

Marburg Virus Disease is a rare and severe type of haemorrhagic fever which affects both humans and non-human primates. It is caused by Marburg virus belonging to the filovirus (family includes Ebola virus). Although the disease is rare, it has a capacity to cause dramatic outbreaks with high fatality. The virus is mainly found in East and Central Africa. Incubation period of the disease is 3 to 10 days.

Early symptoms include sudden onset of fever, severe headache, severe malaise and muscle ache. On around day 3, severe watery diarrhoea, vomiting and abdominal pain begin and diarrhoea can persist for a week. On days 5 to 7, many patients develop severe bleeding manifestation often from multiple sites, including nose, gums, in vomitus, faeces. Death occurs most often between days 8 and 9 after symptom onset, usually preceded by severe blood loss and shock.

How does it spread?

The virus is believed to be transmitted from an unknown animal host to humans. Humans may spread the virus to others through extremely close contact with a patient and body fluid (blood, faeces, vomitus, urine, saliva, sweat, respiratory secretions). Close contact with a severely ill patient, during care at home or in hospital, and certain burial practices are common routes of infection. Transmission through needle-stick injuries is associated with more severe disease, rapid deterioration, and possibly higher fatality. Humans may also be infected after close contact with infected primates or their body fluids.

How can you prevent it?

There is no vaccine for the disease. The best way to prevent the disease is to:

  • Observe good personal hygiene. Frequent handwashing with soap can remove infectious materials from the hands and prevent disease transmission.

  • Close contact with feverish or infected persons must be avoided.

  • Avoid contact with sick or dead animals especially primates.

  • Do not eat bushmeat of primates.

  • After returning from the affected area, travellers should monitor their health for 10 days and seek medical advice promptly if symptoms of fever, watery diarrhoea, malaise, muscle ache or nausea develop, and inform recent travel history.

How is it treated?

There is no specific treatment for the disease. Patients must be managed in isolation facilities to prevent the spread of the infection. As close contact with a severely ill patient is a high risk factor for transmission, health care workers should put on protective gears and adopt strict infection control practice when caring for suspected patient.