Marburg Virus Infection

By | June 8, 2022

Marburg virus infection is a serious infectious disease with high fever and bleeding of the internal organs. To date, only the symptoms of this tropical disease can be treated and the mortality rate is high.

What is Marburg virus infection?

Marburg virus infection is a viral disease with profuse internal bleeding. Due to the high risk of infection, it is one of the notifiable diseases. For ls – lichen sclerosus, please visit

The incubation period is generally given as 4 to 17 days. The infection begins like the flu, later symptoms such as internal bleeding and functional disorders of the organs are added. Like the related Ebola, the Marburg virus infection is a tropical disease.

The first cases in Germany occurred as early as 1967, when the viruses reached Germany via imported monkeys from Africa. No further cases have occurred in Germany since 1967, but in 2004 150 people died in Angola from the Marburg virus infection, which is still widespread in Africa.


Marburg virus infection is caused by filoviruses, which include the Ebola virus. Both diseases therefore have common characteristics, including the incubation period, the symptoms and the organs affected.

To date, it has not been clarified in which animals the pathogen virus occurs, bats are suspected as carriers. Since the mortality rate is at least 25%, scientists suspect that the virus has not yet adapted sufficiently to humans, since viruses are not interested in the fatal damage to their host that would be disadvantageous for them.

Infection occurs through direct physical contact with those affected and through body fluids and excretions containing the virus. There is a risk of infection from dried blood for up to five days, and convalescents from Marburg virus infection are contagious for several months after recovery.

Symptoms, Ailments & Signs

The symptoms of Marburg virus infection are usually acute. The patient suddenly feels ill, suffers from fever and chills and has severe headache, sore throat and muscle pain. At the beginning, the infection also manifests itself through nausea and vomiting, abdominal pain and diarrhea. Affected people are physically very weak at this stage.

Additional symptoms may appear after five to seven days of illness. Bleeding of the mucous membranes of the mouth and throat, the gastrointestinal tract and the lungs are possible. In severe cases, the body temperature continues to rise and causes a strong feeling of illness with hot flashes, sweating and disturbances of consciousness.

Sick people appear confused and aggressive, sometimes paralysis and sensory disturbances also set in. In the final stage, severe organ bleeding occurs. Anemia can result from this complication, which manifests itself in the form of blood in the stool and persistent stomach cramps, among other things.

Ultimately, cardiovascular failure and eventual death of the patient can occur. If the course is positive, the symptoms of the Marburg virus infection subside after about three to five days. Follow-up symptoms do not normally occur, although the fever can persist for a few days or weeks in some patients.

Diagnosis & History

If flu-like symptoms occur up to three weeks after a trip to an infected area, the patient should contact a tropical medicine specialist immediately and refer them to the trip. A special blood test can be used to determine the presence of the Marburg virus.

The first symptoms of Marburg virus infection, such as high fever with chills, headache, sore throat and body aches, appear suddenly and severely. After three days, nausea, abdominal pain, vomiting and diarrhea are added and those affected are very weak.

The viruses also affect the central nervous system, causing paralysis, confusion and, in severe cases, shock. Complications are common with a Marburg virus infection, after five to seven days most of those affected suffer from severe internal bleeding that can lead to cardiovascular failure.

Antibodies are only formed after a week, which can be detected with a blood test and can be found in the body for years. The prognosis is poor and the mortality rate is high. However, there are reports of mild and symptom-free courses of Marburg virus infection.


The Marburg virus infection causes those affected to experience the usual complaints and symptoms of flu or a cold. The patients suffer from severe fever and chills. There is pain in the head and neck and those affected feel tired and exhausted.

It is not uncommon for joint pain and muscle pain to occur, which can significantly reduce the patient’s quality of life. Those affected also suffer from rashes and itching on the skin. However, the Marburg virus infection must be treated by a doctor in any case. Without treatment, this usually leads to problems with the heart and the entire circulatory system of the patient, so that they can also lose consciousness.

In the worst case, this can lead to the death of the patient. Life expectancy is reduced if treatment for Marburg virus infection is not started early. The treatment itself takes place with the help of drugs and a vaccine. There are no complications and the symptoms can be limited relatively well.

When should you go to the doctor?

Since the Marburg virus infection is fatal in many cases, a doctor’s visit should be initiated immediately at the first sign. Often there are sudden and acute symptoms that require treatment. Fever, malaise, muscle pain, chills, nausea and vomiting indicate a health impairment. If you experience abdominal pain, disorders of the digestive tract, headaches and body aches, you should consult a doctor immediately. Since it is a tropical disease that is transmitted by viruses, people who have been guests in tropical regions in particular should see a doctor. Also particularly at risk are people who are or have been in physical contact with people or animals from this region.

The doctor treating you must be informed immediately so that the best possible medical care can take place. Hot flashes, sweating, bleeding from the mucous membranes in the mouth and throat and problems with the digestive tract should be presented to a doctor. If stomach cramps, symptoms of paralysis or sensory disorders occur, a doctor is required. If the person concerned shows mental confusion, this is an alarming signal. He needs to see a doctor as soon as possible. Cardiovascular disorders, changes in blood pressure, a strong feeling of illness and inner weakness must be examined medically.

Treatment & Therapy

There is no causal therapy against the Marburg virus infection, only symptoms can be treated. For this reason, the Marburg virus has been classified as a potential biological warfare agent of the highest hazard class. Patients are prescribed isolated bed rest, usually in a specialized hospital, and are given pain-reducing, sedative, and anticonvulsant drugs, usually intravenously.

Since the patients lose a lot of fluid due to the high fever, vomiting and diarrhea and oral intake of water and food is difficult due to the symptoms, the disturbed mineral and water balance must be compensated for by fluid administration using infusions.

With early and intensive medical treatment of the patients, up to 75% survive the Marburg virus infection and severe courses can be prevented. It is therefore advisable to isolate persons contacted during the incubation period and during the first symptoms of the disease as a preventative measure and to carry out blood analyzes on them in order to be able to treat the symptoms of the Marburg virus at an early stage.

Outlook & Forecast

Currently, only the symptoms can be treated. However, doctors cannot treat the causes of the disease. The medical equipment in the area of ​​spread thus has a large share in the healing success. This can also be proven historically: only 15 percent of those infected survived an outbreak in Angola; in Europe it was over 75 percent in 1960.

The comparatively better medical system was able to heal significantly more people. However, since severe internal bleeding can hardly be prevented and doctors face serious challenges, the prognosis for the Marburg virus infection is poor. This is not least due to the fact that the state of research is still insufficient.

If no treatment is started, death usually follows sooner or later. Although there are also mild viruses, they also trigger certain symptoms that require treatment. The risk of Marburg virus infection in western states is low. This is also due to reliable hygiene standards. Transmission via urine, saliva, faeces or blood cannot be ruled out; however, public awareness of this is very high.


The risk of infection with the Marburg virus infection is relatively low for vacationers in Africa, since the main infected areas are not tourist destinations. The virus poses a danger to development workers and missionaries who work in close contact with the population in the affected areas. People who work with African monkeys are also at risk. The risk groups should pay more attention, for example by complying with the European safety regulations for animal imports, but they can hardly protect themselves from the Marburg virus infection.


The Marbus virus infection is a serious disease that promises no cure. Therefore, consistent follow-up care is required by the attending physician, which mainly focuses on alleviating the symptoms. Since the disease usually ends in death, follow-up care is almost impossible in this case. The measures can at most extend the lifetime.

You can do that yourself

Conventional medicine can currently only treat the symptoms of this tropical disease. The best form of self-help is to avoid infection. The Marburg virus infection is widespread in Central Africa, although the typical tourist destinations such as Kenya and South Africa are hardly affected. The risk areas include in particular Angola, Nigeria, the Congo and Chad. The disease also occurs in Ghana and Ivory Coast. Private trips to these countries should be avoided. Anyone who has to go to a risk area for professional reasons and is in close contact with the local population there can hardly protect themselves from infection. It is then all the more important to know the symptoms in order to be able to seek adequate medical help in good time.

Anyone who is in a risk area or develops flu-like symptoms such as fever, chills or headache, sore throat and body aches shortly after returning should see a doctor immediately, preferably a specialist in tropical medicine, and explicitly point out the possibility of an infection with the Marburg – Virus alert. Rapid diagnosis and adequate treatment are extremely important, since life-threatening internal bleeding and organ dysfunction can occur very quickly with the disease.

In the case of an acute infection, those affected must remain in bed. Severe diarrhea is often one of the symptoms, with a lot of fluid being lost. In this situation, it is important to pay attention to fluid and electrolyte balance. Because of its high salt content, vegetable broth makes a particularly good drink alongside water and tea.

Marburg Virus Infection