Amid reports of two confirmed Marburg virus outbreaks in the African countries of Equatorial Guinea and Tanzania, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released an alert last week for U.S. doctors to keep an eye out for any potential cases.
“Currently, the risk of MVD [Marburg virus disease] in the United States is low; however, clinicians should be aware of the potential for imported cases,” the CDC stated in the alert.
“It is important to systematically assess patients for the possibility of viral hemorrhagic fevers.”
The CDC defines the Marburg virus — which has been compared to the Ebola virus — as a “rare but severe hemorrhagic fever, which affects both people and non-human primates.”
Fox News medical contributor and NYU Langone internal medicine specialist Dr. Marc Siegel appeared on the Fox News Channel to share his perspective on the virus.
Virus is similar to Ebola
The Marburg virus isn’t new — it was first discovered in 1967, when outbreaks happened in labs in Marburg and Frankfurt (both in Germany) and in Serbia (formerly Belgrade, Yugoslavia).
However, Dr. Siegel said more sustained outbreaks are happening where it used to be sporadic.
“This is a virus that comes from bats — it’s very similar to Ebola,” he said on “Fox & Friends” on Monday, April 10.
The Marburg virus is spread by the Egyptian fruit bat, which is found in both Equatorial Guinea and Tanzania, per the CDC.
“We saw a pretty big outbreak in Tanzania, which it looks to me like they’ve gotten control over, as very few people are being quarantined now,” said Dr. Siegel. “But in Equatorial Guinea, there’s a problem.”
Symptoms of Marburg include nausea, vomiting, sore throat, chest pain, abdominal pain and diarrhea, the CDC stated.
More severe cases can lead to inflammation of the pancreas, jaundice, delirium, severe weight loss, shock, hemorrhaging and organ failure.
Due to its similarity to the Ebola virus, the CDC recommends that doctors follow the same protocols for infection prevention and control when dealing with cases of the Marburg virus.
‘They’re hiding cases’
Dr. Siegel expressed concern that the governments of the countries where the Marburg outbreaks have occurred aren’t sharing the full details.
“It’s the usual problem — they’re not telling us anything.”
“It’s the usual problem — they’re not telling us anything,” he said. “They’re hiding cases. There have probably been at least 29 deaths.”
Dr. Siegel also condemned the World Health Organization (WHO) for not reacting appropriately.
“The World Health Organization, as usual, is limp — not doing what they’re supposed to be doing here, which would be to get a vaccine in there,” he said.
Dr. Siegel noted that there is a vaccine for the Marburg virus — and that the recommended course of action would be to conduct a “ring vaccination” around the people who are most affected.
With the ring vaccination approach, a vaccine is given to a person who is exposed to a virus, along with anyone else who has been in close contact with that person, per WebMD.
This strategy was used to help end the smallpox outbreaks in the mid-1900s.
Marburg virus is not airborne
One piece of good news that Dr. Siegel shared: Unlike the COVID-19 virus, the Marburg virus does not spread through the air.
“It’s pretty stable, so it doesn’t mutate the way we saw with COVID,” he said on “Fox & Friends.”
“It spreads through close contact through secretions.”
Secretions include bodily fluids such as blood, saliva, plasma, semen and urine.
“But it is a horrible virus and it causes a pretty high death rate,” Dr. Siegel noted. “We definitely need to keep an eye on it, because we don’t want to see any cases here [in the U.S.] — but we don’t have control of the situation.”
“And again, I’m disappointed in both the WHO and the local governments, because it can clearly spread around Western Africa,” he added.
Marburg not likely to become the next pandemic
Dr. Siegel was clear: He does not think the Marburg virus will become the next pandemic, as “it’s too stable to mutate in that direction.”
“In nature, this is not going to cause a pandemic.”
He did express concern, however, about viruses being “played with” in the lab.
“I can’t tell you 100% that something won’t happen in a lab,” he said. “That’s where my concern is. But in nature, this is not going to cause a pandemic — it’s only going to cause sporadic outbreaks. And it can be controlled, as it just was in Tanzania.”
Vice President Kamala Harris was just in Tanzania a couple of weeks ago, said Dr. Siegel — but there’s a “really low chance” that she would have been exposed.
“We should not over-hype this, but we should be aware,” the doctor said. “And our public health organizations, especially the WHO, are not effectively coming to bear on it.”
Officials in Equatorial Guinea first declared a Marburg outbreak on Feb. 13.
The first Tanzanian outbreak was declared on March 21.
There are currently no confirmed cases of the Marburg virus in the U.S.