CDC Warns About Deadly Marburg Virus Amid Outbreaks in Africa

CDC Warns About Deadly Marburg Virus Amid Outbreaks in Africa
This transmission electron microscopic (TEM) image in 1975 of an undisclosed tissue sample, reveals the presence of numerous Marburg virus particles. (CDC/Dr. Fred Murphy; Sylvia Whitfield)
Mimi Nguyen Ly

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is warning travelers to take precautions and avoid nonessential travel in the African nations of Equatorial Guinea and Tanzania amid outbreaks of the deadly Marburg virus disease (MVD).

The CDC also says it’s sending personnel from its National Center for Emerging and Zoonotic Infectious Diseases to respond to the outbreaks.

Equatorial Guinea declared an outbreak of MVD on Feb. 13, and Tanzania declared an outbreak on March 21, the CDC noted.

The World Health Organization (WHO) has recorded at least nine confirmed cases in Equatorial Guinea and another 20 probable cases, all of whom have died as of March 25. In Tanzania, the WHO confirmed eight cases, five of whom have died, with the remaining three people undergoing treatments as of March 22.
People are being warned to avoid nonessential travel to the regions where the outbreak is occurring. In Equatorial Guinea, the provinces are Kie-Ntem, Centro Sur, and Litoral. In Tanzania, the Kagera region had confirmed cases.

Kenya and Uganda are on high alert due to the recent cases in Tanzania.

MVD is often fatal and is caused by the Marburg virus, which is in the same family as the virus that causes Ebola. According to the CDC, (pdf) as many as 9 out of 10 people infected with the virus will die without treatment.
It causes a viral hemorrhagic fever that brings severe symptoms within seven days that include high fever, chills, severe headache, muscle pain, malaise, rash, sore throat, diarrhea, weakness, uncontrolled bleeding or bruising, and more.

CDC Recommendations

The CDC recommends that people should watch for MVD symptoms while in the outbreak areas and for 21 days after leaving the area. If they develop any of the symptoms, they must isolate themselves and seek medical care immediately, according to the CDC.

The virus, like Ebola, originates in bats and can spread from infected bats to people or between people via direct contact with blood or body fluids. It can also be transmitted by contaminated surfaces. Other nonhuman primates, such as chimpanzees and gorillas, can also be infected with the virus and therefore pose a threat.

The CDC advises that people who travel to Equatorial Guinea or Tanzania should avoid contact with sick people who have symptoms such as fever, muscle pain, and rash; avoid contact with blood and other body fluids; avoid contact with dead bodies or items that have been in contact with dead bodies, participating in funeral or burial rituals, or attending a funeral or burial; avoid visiting health care facilities in the outbreak area for nonurgent medical care or for nonmedical reasons; avoid visiting traditional healers; avoid contact with fruit bats and the caves and mines where they live; and avoid nonhuman primates (e.g., chimpanzees, gorillas).

While there are no vaccines or drugs currently authorized for MVD, infection control protocols can help prevent its transmission, and rehydration treatment to improve symptoms can improve people’s chances of survival.

Marburg outbreaks and individual cases have, in the past, been recorded in Angola, Congo, Kenya, South Africa, Uganda, and Ghana, according to the WHO.

The rare virus was first identified in 1967 after it caused simultaneous outbreaks of disease in laboratories in Marburg, Germany, and Belgrade, Serbia. Seven people died who were exposed to the virus while conducting research on monkeys.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.