About Marburg Disease

Key points

  • Marburg disease is a rare but severe hemorrhagic fever that can cause serious illness and death.
  • Symptoms can be similar to other tropical diseases, making diagnosis challenging.
  • There is no treatment or vaccine for Marburg disease.
  • The disease spreads through contact with infected animals or people.


Marburg disease is a rare, severe viral hemorrhagic fever which affects both people and other primates, like apes and monkeys. Caused by infection with orthomarburgviruses, Marburg virus or Ravn virus, the disease can lead to serious illness or death. Symptoms can appear suddenly and may include fever, rash, and severe bleeding.

Orthomarburgviruses are naturally found in the Egyptian rousette bat (Rousettus aegyptiacus) and can spread from bats to people. Marburg disease is most commonly found in sub-Saharan Africa.

A map showing Marburg disease outbreaks
Most Marburg disease outbreaks have occurred in Sub-Saharan Africa

Healthcare providers:‎

Review guidance on emergency services, screening, testing, infection control and PPE for viral hemorrhagic fevers, like Marburg disease, here: Site Index | Viral Hemorrhagic Fevers (VHFs) | CDC

Signs and symptoms

Initial Marburg disease signs and symptoms include:

  • Fever
  • Chills
  • Headache
  • Muscle aches
  • Rash with both flat and raised bumps, often on the torso
  • Chest pain
  • Sore throat
  • Nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea

As the disease advances, symptoms can become more severe, including liver failure, delirium, shock, bleeding (hemorrhaging), and multi-organ dysfunction.

How long it takes for signs to show

People with Marburg disease usually start getting sick 2-21 days after they were infected with the virus.

Risk factors

Those most at risk for Marburg disease include:

  • People in contact with Egyptian rousette bats or their excretions
  • People caring for individuals sick with Marburg disease without proper protective equipment
  • People in contact with infected non-human primates

How it spreads

Marburg disease is spread from infected Egyptian rousette bats to people. The virus is found in the saliva, urine, and feces of infected bats. Once the disease has "spilled over" from wildlife to people, those who are sick can spread the disease to other people.

Someone can become infected with Marburg disease if they have contact (such as through broken skin or mucous membranes in the eyes, nose, or mouth) with:

  • Body fluids of a person who is sick with or died from Marburg virus disease
  • Objects contaminated with their fluids like clothes, bedding, needles and equipment
  • Semen from a man who has recovered from infection with Marburg virus disease


To prevent Marburg disease

  • Avoid contact with blood and body fluids of people who are sick.
  • Avoid contact with semen from a person who recovered from Marburg virus disease until testing shows that the virus is gone from their semen.
  • Do not handle items that may have come in contact with an infected person's body fluids.
  • Avoid contact with Egyptian rousette bats and non-human primates if in areas where Marburg disease is found.


The following tests can be used for patients who had a possible exposure to an orthomarburgvirus and begin to show signs and symptoms of Marburg disease:

  • Polymerase chain reaction (PCR)
  • IgM-capture ELISA
  • Antigen-capture ELISA testing
  • Virus isolation in high-containment laboratories

Treatment and recovery

Currently, there are no licensed treatments for Marburg disease. Treatment is limited to supportive care. This includes rest, hydration, managing oxygen status and blood pressure, and treatment of secondary infections.

Expected outcomes

Marburg disease is a serious, deadly disease. Between 20-90 percent of people with the disease will die.

What CDC is doing

To combat Marburg disease, CDC:

  • Responds to Marburg disease outbreaks around the globe.
  • Provides infection prevention and control guidance.
  • Offers confirmatory diagnostic testing.
  • Conducts ongoing research to better understand the disease.
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