CDC to warn some travelers to watch for Marburg virus symptoms as it investigates outbreaks in Africa



The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is sending personnel to Africa to help stop outbreaks of Marburg virus disease and urging travelers to certain countries to take precautions.

Equatorial Guinea and Tanzania are facing their first known outbreaks of Marburg virus, a viral fever with uncontrolled bleeding that’s a close cousin to Ebola. This week, the CDC urged travelers to both countries to avoid contact with sick people and watching for symptoms 21 days after leaving the area. Travelers to Equatorial Guinea should take enhanced precautions and avoid non-essential travel to the provinces where the outbreak is occurring, the agency said.

In the United States, the agency will post notices on airport monitors to warn travelers coming off flights from Equatorial Guinea and Tanzania to watch for symptoms of the virus for 21 days, and seek care immediately if they become ill. They will also get a reminder to watch for symptoms by text.

The CDC is also standing up a “center-level” emergency response; it’s not as all-encompassing as when the CDC stands up its Emergency Operations Center, such as for Covid-19 and mpox. But it will refocus the efforts and attention of the staff of its National Center for Emerging and Zoonotic Infectious Diseases to respond to the outbreaks, which are in two different countries on opposite sides of Africa, indicating that the deadly hemorrhagic fever is spreading.

Equatorial Guinea, on the coast in West Africa, declared an outbreak of Marburg virus disease in mid-February with cases spread across multiple provinces. As of March 22, Equatorial Guinea had 13 confirmed cases, including nine who have died and one who has recovered, according to the World Health Organization. A team of six scientists from the CDC is already on the ground there.

Tanzania, a country on the coast in East Africa, declared an outbreak of Marburg virus disease on March 21, with cases reported in two villages in the Kagera region, according to the CDC. As of March 22, Tanzania has had eight confirmed cases, including five deaths.

Marburg virus is a rare and deadly virus that causes fever, chills, muscle pain, rash, sore throat, diarrhea, weakness or unexplained bleeding or bruising. It is passed through contact with body fluids and contaminated surfaces. People can also catch it from infected animals. It is fatal in about half of the people who get it. Other countries in Africa have had to quell outbreaks before.

In its early stages, the infection is difficult to distinguish from other illnesses, so a history of travel to either of those countries will be essential to help clinicians spot it.


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