Marburg is a rare but highly infectious viral hemorrhagic fever and is in the same family as Ebola, a better-known virus that has plagued West Africa for years.
The Marburg virus is a “genetically unique zoonotic … RNA virus of the filovirus family,” according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “The six species of Ebola virus are the only other known members of the filovirus family.”
Marburg has probably been transmitted to people from African fruit bats as a result of prolonged exposure from people working in mines and caves that have Rousettus bat colonies. It is not an airborne disease.
Once someone is infected, the virus can spread easily between humans through direct contact with the bodily fluids of infected people such as blood, saliva or urine, as well as on surfaces and materials. Relatives and health workers remain most vulnerable alongside patients, and bodies can remain contagious at burial.
The first cases of the virus were identified in Europe in 1967. Two large outbreaks in Marburg and Frankfurt in Germany, and in Belgrade, Serbia, led to the initial recognition of the disease. At least seven deaths were reported in that outbreak, with the first people infected having been exposed to Ugandan imported African green monkeys or their tissue while conducting lab research, the CDC said.