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Marburg Hemorrhagic Fever: Fact Sheet

How do humans get Marburg hemorrhagic fever?

Just how the animal host first transmits Marburg virus to humans is unknown. However, as with some other viruses which cause viral hemorrhagic fever, humans who become ill with Marburg hemorrhagic fever may spread the virus to other people. This may happen in several ways. Persons handling infected monkeys who come into direct contact with them or their fluids or cell cultures, have become infected. Spread of the virus between humans has occurred in a setting of close contact, often in a hospital. Droplets of body fluids, or direct contact with persons, equipment, or other objects contaminated with infectious blood or tissues are all highly suspect as sources of disease.

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.

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