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Marburg Hemorrhagic Fever: Fact Sheet

What are the symptoms of the disease?

After an incubation period of 5-10 days, the onset of the disease is sudden and is marked by fever, chills, headache, and myalgia. Around the fifth day after the onset of symptoms, a maculopapular rash, most prominent on the trunk (chest, back, stomach), may occur. Nausea, vomiting, chest pain, a sore throat, abdominal pain, and diarrhea then may appear. Symptoms become increasingly severe and may include jaundice, inflammation of the pancreas, severe weight loss, delirium, shock, liver failure, massive hemorrhaging, and multi-organ dysfunction.

 

Because many of the signs and symptoms of Marburg hemorrhagic fever are similar to those of other infectious diseases, such as malaria or typhoid fever, diagnosis of the disease can be difficult, especially if only a single case is involved.

Which laboratory tests are used to diagnose Marburg hemorrhagic fever?

Antigen-capture enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA) testing, IgM-capture ELISA, polymerase chain reaction (PCR), and virus isolation can be used to confirm a case of Marburg hemorrhagic fever within a few days of the onset of symptoms. The IgG-capture ELISA is appropriate for testing persons later in the course of disease or after recovery. The disease is readily diagnosed by immunohistochemistry, virus isolation, or PCR of blood or tissue specimens from deceased patients.

Are there complications after recovery?

Recovery from Marburg hemorrhagic fever may be prolonged and accompanied by orchititis, recurrent hepatitis, transverse myelitis or uvetis. Other possible complications include inflammation of the testis, spinal cord, eye, parotid gland, or by prolonged hepatitis.

Is the disease ever fatal?

Yes. The case-fatality rate for Marburg hemorrhagic fever is between 23-25%.

How is Marburg hemorrhagic fever treated?

A specific treatment for this disease is unknown. However, supportive hospital therapy should be utilized. This includes balancing the patient's fluids and electrolytes, maintaining their oxygen status and blood pressure, replacing lost blood and clotting factors and treating them for any complicating infections.

Sometimes treatment also has used transfusion of fresh-frozen plasma and other preparations to replace the blood proteins important in clotting. One controversial treatment is the use of heparin (which blocks clotting) to prevent the consumption of clotting factors. Some researchers believe the consumption of clotting factors is part of the disease process.

Who is at risk for the illness?

People who have close contact with a human or non-human primate infected with the virus are at risk. Such persons include laboratory or quarantine facility workers who handle non-human primates that have been associated with the disease. In addition, hospital staff and family members who care for patients with the disease are at risk if they do not use proper barrier nursing techniques.

How is Marburg hemorrhagic fever prevented?

Due to our limited knowledge of the disease, preventive measures against transmission from the original animal host have not yet been established. Measures for prevention of secondary transmission are similar to those used for other hemorrhagic fevers. If a patient is either suspected or confirmed to have Marburg hemorrhagic fever, barrier nursing techniques should be used to prevent direct physical contact with the patient. These precautions include wearing of protective gowns, gloves, and masks; placing the infected individual in strict isolation; and sterilization or proper disposal of needles, equipment, and patient excretions.

In conjunction with the World Health Organization, CDC has developed practical, hospital-based guidelines, titled "Infection Control for Viral Haemorrhagic Fevers In the African Health Care Setting." The manual can help health-care facilities recognize cases and prevent further hospital-based disease transmission using locally available materials and few financial resources.

WebMD Public Information from the CDC

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