Ebola Virus and Marburg Virus

What is Ebola Virus and Marburg Virus?

Ebola virus disease (EVD) and Marburg virus (MV) have very high mortality rates. The first recognized outbreaks of MV were in Germany and Belgium in the late 1960’s, and the first outbreak of EV was in Africa in 1976.

They are still two of the most deadly viruses in the world. They cause hemorrhagic fevers and very serious life-threatening complications. EVD and MV come from wild animals including non-human primates, porcupines, antelope and fruit bats. Diseased animals can transmit both viruses to humans, and humans can spread them to other humans through bodily fluids, items that are soiled with bodily fluids and infected needles.

What are the Symptoms of Ebola Virus and Marburg Virus?

Early symptoms are similar to signs of influenza.

Early sign symptoms

  • Chills
  • Fever
  • Sore throat
  • Acute headache
  • Aching joints and muscles
  • Lethargy

As the virus continues ravaging the body, symptoms and complications greatly worsen.

Later stage symptoms

  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Loose stools (possibly bloody)
  • Elevated rash
  • Red eyes
  • Cough
  • Chest pains
  • Abdominal pain
  • Extreme weight loss
  • Bruises
  • Internal bleeding
  • Impaired liver function
  • Kidney damage
  • Bleeding from the eyes
  • Bleeding from multiple orifices when close to death

Ebola Virus and Marburg Virus Causes

Ebola virus and Marburg virus have both been found in the monkeys, chimps, and other non-human primates of Africa. Each virus has a history of animal to human transmission, causing the diseases to spread further, through two distinct means. The first way Ebola and Marburg is transmitted to humans is through blood. Often, African communities unknowingly butcher and eat infected animals. Additionally, researchers attempting to study the viruses in infected animals have also become infected.

Secondly, tourists and mine workers have been exposed to the Marburg virus in particular, while exploring underground caves. Researchers theorize that these individuals come into contact with the viruses through the feces and urine of infected bats.

As symptoms develop, infected persons become contagious and infect family members, as well as caregivers in some situations. Surgical gloves and masks must always be worn when dealing with patients. However, African communities are so poor that the hospital personnel are often forced to reuse needles and syringes, causing even greater Ebola and Marburg outbreaks.

How is Ebola Virus and Marburg Virus Treated?

Ebola virus and Marburg virus have no cure or preventable vaccines. Treatment includes lots of fluids, blood pressure control, supplemental oxygen, blood replacement if necessary and supportive care. Treatment may also be required for resulting infections.

Ebola Virus and Marburg Virus Prevention

The prevention of Ebola and Marburg is problematic at present, because it’s difficult to say exactly how the disease is spread from wildlife to human populations. Researchers are continuing to study this aspect of the viruses, but, at present, they can only recommend limiting exposure to fruit bats and non-human primates.

As for person to person transmission, the CDC recommends applying similar prevention procedures as those outlined for other hemorrhagic fevers. For instance, as soon as the virus is suspected, hospital staff are expected to begin barrier nursing techniques, which prevents direct contact between the patient and caregivers. In addition to wearing proper protective equipment (gloves, masks, aprons), the patient is placed in strict isolation and treated through the use of sterile equipment. Finally, needles, equipment, and patient excretions are to be disposed of properly to avoid spreading the virus.

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Last Reviewed:
September 20, 2016
Last Updated:
December 18, 2017
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