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Epidemic Control Toolkit
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Marburg Virus Disease

Marburg Virus Disease

Last update: 2023-06-21

Key facts

Transmission: Direct and indirect contact

  • Prolonged contact with fruit bat colonies 
  • Contact with the blood, faeces, vomit, spit, sweat, tears, breastmilk or semen from a person sick with Marburg 
    • Contact can be with objects that have been contaminated with the body fluids from a person who is sick with Marburg (for example, bedding, clothes or needles)
  • When handling the body of someone who has died from Marburg
  • Coming into contact with semen (for example, through sex) from someone who has recovered from Marburg (safe sex, with condoms, should be practiced for 12 months after recovery)
  • Mother-to-child during pregnancy, delivery and breastfeeding is possible

Most vulnerable to severe consequences

  • Every person in the community is vulnerable to Marburg (** it is a deadly disease that can kill many – about half of all people who get infected can die **)

Most vulnerable to contracting the disease

  • Family and relatives of people who are sick (or who have died) from Marburg 
  • Health workers, volunteers and people who handle dead bodies


  • Sudden and high fever
  • Severe headache
  • Feeling unwell
  • Muscle aches and pains (sometimes)
  • Abdominal cramps (sometimes)
  • Nausea and vomiting (sometimes)
  • Watery diarrhoea (sometimes)
  • Rash (sometimes)
  • Bruising under the skin and bleeding from the nose, vagina, gums (sometimes)
  • Blood in vomit and/or faeces (sometimes)
  • Confusion, irritability, aggression (sometimes)

What can you do to prevent and control an epidemic?

Monitoring the community and identifying sick people 

  • Identify and immediately isolate sick people

Treatment and management

  • Immediately refer suspected cases to treatment centres 
  • Provide safe transport for suspected cases
  • Support contact tracing and follow-up of contacts
  • Provide psychosocial support to the sick person, their families and communities
  • Support safe and dignified funeral and burial practices

Sanitation and waste management

  • Dispose safely of waste that might be contaminated (by burning or burying)
  • Disinfect homes and personal belongings of people who are sick or have died
  • Promote disinfection of reusable supplies
  • Solid waste management
    • Encourage the community to clear away rubbish and garbage 

Personal protection and hygiene

  • Promote handwashing with soap, chlorine solution or hand sanitizer 
  • Practise and promote social distancing
  • Use personal protective equipment (gloves, masks, clothing) when in contact with potential cases
  • Promote wearing gloves, masks and other appropriate protective clothing when working in mines or caves inhabited by fruit bat colonies
  • Avoid touching sick or dead fruit bats, their faeces and other waste products 

Food hygiene and safety

  • Promote cooking bushmeat or animal products (blood and meat) thoroughly 

Social mobilization and behaviour change

  • Find out the specific advice being given by health and other relevant authorities 
    • Promote the use of condoms for at least 12 months after a diagnosis of Marburg or until their semen tests negative twice for the virus
    • Promote the safe disposal (burning or burying) of contaminated materials
    • Promote social distancing
  • Model following this advice and inform community members of current health practice advice 
  • Offer support and encouragement to follow the advice  
    • Try to gain understanding about if and why health practice advice is not being followed  
    • With the guidance of your supervisor and health authorities, work with communities to overcome barriers to following health advice and recommended practices
  • Involve the community in managing rumours and misinformation
  • Ensure safe and dignified burials (discuss with your manager to follow national protocols and guidance)

Mapping and community assessment

  • Make a map of the community.
  • Mark the following information on the map:
    • How many people have fallen sick with Marburg? Where?
    • How many people have died? Where? When?
    • Where are the local health facilities and services? (include traditional healers)
    • Where do people obtain their drinking water?
  • Record the following information on the back of the map:
    • When did people start to fall sick with Marburg? 
    • How many people live in the affected community? 
      • How many are children under five years? 
      • How many pregnant women live in the affected areas?
    • What are the community’s habits, practices and beliefs about caring for sick people? Consider any differences in roles and responsibilities between women and men.
    • What are the community’s burial traditions, funeral procedures and practices? Who traditionally prepares bodies for burials? Consider any differences in roles and responsibilities between women and men.
    • Do people in the community know about Marburg?
      • Do people know the main signs of Marburg?
      • Do they know what to do if someone becomes sick (for example phone number to call, actions to take)?
      • Do people know how to protect themselves from Marburg?
    • Is a social mobilization or health promotion programme in place?
    • Are people in the community socially distancing? Why? Why not?
    • Which sources do people use/trust the most for information?
      • Are there rumours or misinformation about Marburg? What are the rumours?
    • Are health workers, volunteers or people who have survived Marburg stigmatized, left out, threatened or harassed? 
      • What are the main effects on them and their lives?