Equatorial Guinea, Tanzania: What is the Marburg virus and how can travellers protect themselves?

Marburg virus is a highly infectious 'cousin' of ebola.
Marburg virus is a highly infectious 'cousin' of ebola. Copyright Canva
Copyright Canva
By Charlotte Elton
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Two African countries have declared outbreaks of the Marburg virus. Here’s everything you need to know.


Travellers to Tanzania and Equatorial Guinea have been warned to check themselves for symptoms of a deadly virus.

The Marburg virus - which has a fatality rate up to 88 per cent - is a highly infectious viral haemorrhagic fever, meaning it affects multiple organ systems at once. It can cause bleeding in these organs, impeding the body’s ability to function.

Outbreaks have been confirmed in Equatorial Guinea and Tanzania, leading the US Centre for Disease Control and Prevention to avoid non-essential travel to impacted provinces. There are fears the disease could spread to neighbouring Gabon.

The Australian government has also issued travelling advisories for nearby Uganda and Gabon.

What is the Marburg virus and what are its symptoms?

The Marburg virus is a close cousin of Ebola, the virus which killed over 11,000 people - predominantly in West Africa - between 2014 and 2016.

After an incubation period of 2-21 days, symptom onset is sudden and marked by fever, chills, headache, and muscle aches and pains.

On the fifth day after the onset of symptoms, sufferers may develop a rash on their chest, back, and stomach.

“Nausea, vomiting, chest pain, a sore throat, abdominal pain, and diarrhoea may appear,” the CDC website claims.

“Symptoms become increasingly severe and can include jaundice, inflammation of the pancreas, severe weight loss, delirium, shock, liver failure, massive hemorrhaging, and multi-organ dysfunction.”

It predominantly spreads through person to person contact. There are currently no approved vaccines for the virus, but trials are imminent.

AP Photo
Marburg is a close cousin of the Ebola virus. In this image, an Ebola victim is put to rest at the Muslim cemetery in Beni, in Congo, on July 14, 2019.AP Photo

Where is the Marburg virus concentrated?

Equatorial Guinea declared an outbreak of Marburg virus disease in mid-February, with 13 confirmed cases so far. Cases have spread across multiple provinces.

Tanzania has confirmed eight cases including five deaths.

The World Health Organisation has sent staff to the affected countries to help deal with the outbreaks.

The US has told travellers to the two countries to avoid contact with sick people and to watch for symptoms.

The Australian government has urged travellers to Tanzania, Uganda, and Gabon to exercise a “high degree of caution.”

So far no European governments have issued travel warnings.

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