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Marburg Hemorrhagic Fever: Fact Sheet

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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.

What needs to be done to address the threat of Marburg hemorrhagic fever?

Marburg hemorrhagic fever is a very rare human disease. However, when it does occur, it has the potential to spread to other people, especially health care staff and family members who care for the patient. Therefore, increasing awareness among health-care providers of clinical symptoms in patients that suggest Marburg hemorrhagic fever is critical. Better awareness can help lead to taking precautions against the spread of virus infection to family members or health-care providers. Improving the use of diagnostic tools is another priority. With modern means of transportation that give access even to remote areas, it is possible to obtain rapid testing of samples in disease control centers equipped with Biosafety Level 4 laboratories in order to confirm or rule out Marburg virus infection.

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