Ebola virus and Marburg virus
Ebola virus and Marburg virus
Ebola virus and Marburg virus are related viruses that cause hemorrhagic fevers — illnesses marked by severe bleeding (hemorrhage), organ failure and, in many cases, death. Both Ebola virus and Marburg virus are native to Africa, where sporadic outbreaks have occurred for decades.
Ebola virus and Marburg virus live in animal hosts, and humans can contract the viruses from infected animals. After the initial transmission, the viruses can spread from person to person through contact with body fluids or contaminated needles.
No drug has been approved to treat Ebola virus or Marburg virus. People diagnosed with Ebola or Marburg virus receive supportive care and treatment for complications. Scientists are coming closer to developing vaccines for these deadly diseases.
In Ebola virus and Marburg virus, signs and symptoms typically begin abruptly within five to 10 days of infection. Early signs and symptoms include:
Over time, symptoms become increasingly severe and may include:
Ebola virus has been found in African monkeys, chimps and other nonhuman primates. A milder strain of Ebola has been discovered in monkeys and pigs in the Philippines. Marburg virus has been found in monkeys, chimps and fruit bats in Africa.
Transmission from animals to humans
Transmission from person to person
Medical personnel can be infected if they don't use protective gear such as surgical masks and latex gloves. Medical centers in Africa are often so poor that they must reuse needles and syringes. Some of the worst Ebola epidemics have occurred because contaminated injection equipment wasn't sterilized between uses.
There's no evidence that Ebola virus or Marburg virus can be spread via insect bites.
For most people — including international travelers — the risk of getting Ebola or Marburg hemorrhagic fever is low. The risk increases if you:
Both Ebola and Marburg hemorrhagic fevers lead to death for a high percentage of people who are affected. As the illness progresses, it can cause:
One reason the viruses are so deadly is that they interfere with the immune system's ability to mount a defense. But scientists don't understand why some people recover from Ebola and Marburg and others don't.
For people who survive, recovery is slow. It may take months to regain weight and strength, and the viruses remain in the body for many weeks. People may experience:
Preparing for your appointment
The possibility of contracting Marburg or Ebola virus is extremely low unless you've had direct contact with the body fluids of an infected person or animal.
If you think that you or a family member may have been exposed to one of the viruses, call your doctor or go to the nearest emergency room immediately. If you're not referred to an infectious disease specialist, ask to see one.
If you're traveling or working abroad, the nearest U.S. Embassy can help you find a doctor. Be sure to tell your doctor or hospital about your symptoms before your visit so that precautions can be taken to prevent transmission of the virus to others.
What you can do
If possible, take a family member or friend with you. Sometimes it can be difficult to absorb all the information provided to you in the hospital or during an appointment. Someone who accompanies you may remember something that you missed or forgot.
Tests and diagnosis
Ebola and Marburg hemorrhagic fevers are difficult to diagnose because many of the early signs and symptoms resemble those of other infectious diseases, such as typhoid and malaria. But if doctors suspect that you have been exposed to Ebola virus or Marburg virus, they use laboratory tests that can identify the viruses within a few days.
Most people with Ebola or Marburg hemorrhagic fever have high concentrations of the virus in their blood. Blood tests known as enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA) and reverse transcriptase polymerase chain reaction (PCR) can detect specific genes or the virus or antibodies to them.
Treatments and drugs
No antiviral medications have proved effective in treating Ebola virus or Marburg virus infection. As a result, treatment consists of supportive hospital care. This includes providing fluids, maintaining adequate blood pressure, replacing blood loss and treating any other infections that develop.
Prevention efforts focus on avoiding contact with the viruses. The following precautions can help prevent infection and spread of Ebola and Marburg.
Last Updated: 2011-06-18
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