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Marburg / Ebola
  Yellow Fever

Marburg / Ebola

These two viruses are part of a group of viruses called filoviruses. They are one of the most lethal viruses known. The Marburg virus has a 25% fatality rate and the Ebola virus can have a fatality rate of up to 90%.

The Marburg virus first appeared in the summer of 1967 at a vaccine factory in -you guessed it, Marburg - Germany. Initially, three employees complained of the flu. However, the next day, their condition deteriorated. They developed severe diarrhea, bloody vomiting, hemorrhages from every orifice, and even their skin came off. In the end, over 30 pharmaceutical workers, doctors who looked at them, technicians and household contacts became infected in Germany and Yugoslavia. Seven people died the year's end. The others suffered liver damage, impotence, and psychosis. The disease was linked to the exposure from a shipment of African green monkeys from Uganda. Half of those monkeys died en route. Outside the body, this virus is easily killed by methyl alcohol.

Marburg virus pictured between two human liver cells at 75,000 x magnification.

Electron micrograph courtesy of Dr. F.A. Murphy, UC Davis.

The Ebola showed itself during the summer of 1976 along remote villages in Zaire and Sudan. The virus was named after the river from which the epidemic started. There were 358 cases in Zaire of which 325 died. Sudan probably had a less lethal strain as only 151 people died out of 284 cases.

A scare of Ebola came to the U.S. in 1989. In Reston, Virginia, monkeys imported from the Philippines suddenly started dying and the people involved with them got infected with what is now called the "Reston" virus. Luckily, they developed no symptoms suggesting that this was probably a virus specifically targeted at monkeys. The virus, however, resembles the Ebola virus.

The Ebola virus is shaped ironically like a question mark. Much is unknown about this virus. The Marburg virus is rod shaped and can roll up tightly for protection.

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