Intended for healthcare professionals

Research Article

Outbreake of Marburg virus disease in Johannesburg.

Br Med J 1975; 4 doi: (Published 29 November 1975) Cite this as: Br Med J 1975;4:489
  1. J S Gear,
  2. G A Cassel,
  3. A J Gear,
  4. B Trappler,
  5. L Clausen,
  6. A M Meyers,
  7. M C Kew,
  8. T H Bothwell,
  9. R Sher,
  10. G B Miller,
  11. J Schneider,
  12. H J Koornhof,
  13. E D Gomperts,
  14. M Isaäcson,
  15. J H Gear


    The first recognised outbreak of Marburg virus disease in Africa, and the first since the original epidemic in West Germany and Yugoslavia in 1967, occurred in South Africa in February 1975. The primary case was in a young Australian man , who was admitted to the Johannesburg Hospital after having toured Rhodesia. Two secondary cases occurred, one being in the first patient's travelling companion, and the other in a nurse. Features of the illness included high fever, myalgia, vomiting and diarrhoea, hepatitis, a characteristic maculopapular rash, leucopenia, thrombocytopenia, and a bleeding tendency. The first patient died on the seventh day from haemorrhage resulting from a combination of disseminated intravascular coagulation and hepatic failure. The other two patients were given vigorous supportive treatment and prophylactic heparin and recovered after an acute phase lasting about seven days. During this period on developed pancreatitis, the serum amylase remaining raised until the 32nd day after the onset of the illness. The other developed unilateral uveitis after having been asymptomatic for two months. This persisted for several weeks and Marburg virus was cultured from the anterior chamber of the eye.