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Marburg: 266 cases, 244 dead, as of 4/25/05

Denise Grady, NY Times, April 26, 2005

Viral hemorrhagic fevers, a handful of diseases found only in Africa and South America, are among the most frightening of all illnesses. Ebola and Marburg, limited to Africa [2013 update: Ebola found in Asia], are the only members of a family known as filoviruses, and they are as bad as these diseases get. The viruses sabotage the body's defenses by invading and eventually killing the white blood cells that are essential to fighting off infections.

Three to 9 days after exposure, the illness comes on suddenly, with a fever and a pounding headache, and swiftly progresses to vomiting and diarrhea. The virus also attacks vital organs like the liver, spleen and pancreas, and ultimately spreads just about everywhere in the body. About half the patients bleed under the skin and from the mouth, nose, intestines and other openings.

There is no vaccine or treatment, and victims can be dead in a week, usually from shock and plummeting blood pressure caused by fluid leaking out of blood vessels. Death rates have been 80 percent to 90 percent for Ebola, and 30 percent to 90 percent for Marburg.