Marburg Hemorrhagic Fever

Marburg Hemorrhagic Fever under the microscope, Dr. Fred Murphy, Sylvia Whitfield, USCDCP, public domain
Marburg Hemorrhagic Fever under the microscope, Dr. J. Lyle Conrad, USCDCP, public domain

The Marburg Hemorrhagic Fever is named after its first outbreak in a western country. The disease was imported to Germany in 1967 with a group of guenon moneys, which were imported from Uganda to the research labs of the pharmaceutical company Behringwerke in the Hessian city Marburg. The laboratory assistants were infected by the virus and the virus was identified for the first time by the tropical hospital of Marburg. The disease is very dangerous and there is no treatment, at least one third of the sick die, but generally the death rate is about 80%. But there is a new vaccine which also works during the incubation period.

It seems the virus lives in the Egyptian fruit bat (Rousettus aegyptiacus), a bat which lives in Europe and Africa. Outbreaks in industrial countries are rare and are generally cause by the infection of an Africa tourist. Rather spectacular was the case of a woman from the Netherlands, who became sich back in Holland and died. She visited Uganda, and there she visited a cave with bats, which was subsequently closed. The Marburg virus was found in living bats in Uganda one year earlier, in 2007. Also there was an outbreak among Ugandan miners, where many bats lived in the mine.

The number of cases is extremely low, the conection to caves and mines is not prooven in the scientific sense. However, it is advisable to refrain from the visit of bat caves in tropic countries like Uganda. Do not overestimate the education of local guides, who will tell you that anything is safe. Cavers in such countries should protect themselves with the new vaccine and suitable equipment like respirators.