Marburg virus outbreak in the Congo
9 September 1999
In March an outbreak of haemorrhagic fever in the Democratic Republic of Congo killed 60 people. A total of 90 cases were reported, mostly since late March and mostly in the northern town of Durba, Ituri district, among men working in abandoned mines near Durba. MSF, leading the investigation into the cause of the outbreak, found the extremely rare and deadly Marburg virus to be responsible for some of the deaths. Teams from US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the World Health Organization, the Tropical Institute of Antwerp, Belgium, and the South African National Institute of Virology arrived to try and learn more about the disease. Previously only six cases of human Marburg have been identified in the wild. Marburg virus is similar to the better known Ebola virus. Initial symptoms of fever and haemorrhage can quickly lead to death within days. Like Ebola, there is no specific treatment or vaccine for Marburg virus. MSF also set up an isolation unit for patient care in Durba, is advising health authorities and the general public in the area and is distributing barrier nursing materials for health workers.