The virus which causes Marburg hemorrhagic fever is related to the Ebola virus and originates in Uganda and Eastern Congo. It is suspected that Egyptian fruit bats are the source of Marburg hemorrhagic fever; but studies are still being conducted to confirm the suspicion.
There was an outbreak of marburg hemorrhagic fever in Angola in 2005 to which cave-dwelling African fruit bats in Gabon were found to have the virus. Ebola genes were also found in fruit bats in 2005.
Symptoms of Marburg
The symptoms of Marburg hemorrhagic fever are very similar to other tropical diseases such as malaria and typhoid, which makes diagnosing it difficult. Early symptoms (after a 3 – 9 day incubation period) are non-specific and may include fever, headache and muscle pain.
After 5 days a rash appears on the trunk of the body. In the later stage if the disease is acute jaundice, delirium, hemorrhaging, hypovolemic shock, neuropsychiatric symptoms, pancreatitis and multi-organ failure including liver failure occur. The disease lasts from one to three weeks in which the patient either recovers or dies.
The disease is infectious and spread through contact with bodily fluids of an infected person. Bodily fluids including blood, feces, saliva and vomit can all contain infection.
There is no specific treatment for marburg hemorrhagic fever, and hospital support basically includes relieving symptoms, monitoring fluid and electrolyte balance and blood pressure. Hospital workers must wear protective barrier such as gloves, masks, gowns, face shields, eye protection and shoe and leg coverings.
Disease control measures include screening of airline passengers coming from infected areas, better equipped isolation wards in hospitals and a unified education effort of health care practitioners in outbreak areas for identification of the disease.
As with any tropical disease, control involves teaching community members to report incidence so that isolation and disease containment can occur to help stop the spread of the disease. Research financial support is important so that the cause can be determined with certainty and better preventative measures can be designed.
Healthcare facilities must have the funding to properly control and isolate those who are ill with marburg hemorrhagic fever. Healthcare workers must have access to protection equipment including gloves, gowns, eye protection and masks if they are to be effective in preventing the spread of the infection through hospital wards and to the workers themselves.
Research is vital so that treatment can be possible Funding grants need to be ongoing so that a vaccine can be developed. The World Health Organizations efforts to educate and design protective programs should be encouraged and supported by all governments.
Besides Angola, marburg has also occurred in Marburg Germany the town in which the name came from, Uganda, South Africa, Kenya, and also Democratic Republic of Congo. It is a common practice in epidemiology to identify new viral strains with the place-name of the geographical area where they were first identified.
Like so many other tropical diseases the most important key to combating the disease is to identify, contain the spread of the disease and to start treatment as early as possible. Education is important as community members must understand the steps that must be taken to stop the spread of the disease.
Photo: Negative stained transmission electron micrograph (TEM) depicts a number of filamentous Marburg virions, which had been cultured on Vero cell cultures, and purified on sucrose, rate-zonal gradients. Note the virus’s morphologic appearance with its characteristic “Shepherd’s Crook” shape; Magnified approximately 100,000x. CDC/ Dr. Erskine Palmer, Russell Regnery, Ph.D.