CDC warns doctors to watch for Marburg virus amid outbreaks in two African nations

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued a health advisory Thursday about the Marburg virus outbreak in Equatorial Guinea and Tanzania.

Marburg is a rare but highly fatal viral fever that causes uncontrolled bleeding, similar to Ebola.

The CDC's warning says that although there are no cases in the United States and the current risk is low, health care providers should be on the lookout for any imported cases.

Providers who suspect that someone is sick with Marburg virus should take a detailed travel history, the CDC said. The patient should be managed under isolation until there is a negative test, and the local health department should be contacted immediately.

Marburg virus is not contagious until symptoms appear. These can include fever, headache, muscle and joint pain, fatigue, loss of appetite, gastrointestinal symptoms and unexplained bleeding.

It can spread through contact with an infected person's blood and other body fluids or through fluids from infected animals. It does not spread through the air like the virus that causes Covid-19.

There is no specific vaccine or treatment for the disease. Early intensive supportive care, the CDC said, may keep people from getting seriously ill or dying.

In March, the CDC warned travellers to Equatorial Guinea and Tanzania to avoid contact with sick people and to monitor their health for three weeks after visiting those countries. The agency posted notices in international airports reminding people to watch for symptoms and to see a doctor immediately if they feel sick. It's also sending text messages to travellers who have been in those countries.

The CDC has sent staff to Africa to help fight the outbreaks, which are the first reported in either Equatorial Guinea or Tanzania.

Authorities were made aware of the outbreak in Equatorial Guinea in early February. On February 7, the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare for Equatorial Guinea announced that there had been a cluster of deaths in early January.

In late March, the Ministry of Health of Tanzania announced an outbreak in the northwest part of the country. As of April 5, there have been eight lab-confirmed cases, and five of those people have died.

The CDC said there is no evidence to suggest that the two outbreaks are related. Most experts agree that these cases represent two independent animal-to-human spillover events.

In addition to avoiding areas where there are known outbreaks, there are ways to keep yourself safe from Marburg virus, the CDC said. Avoid contact with blood and bodily fluids from people who are sick. If attending a funeral for someone who has died from the disease, take care not to touch the body. Also avoid contact with fruit bats and primates in areas where there are outbreaks, since both animals are known to be carriers for the virus.