The Marburg virus disease is a close cousin of Ebola that can kill as many as 90 percent of the people it infects if left untreated. The virus can be spread through "blood or body fluids of a person infected with or who has died from Marburg." It causes viral hemorrhagic fever that brings severe symptoms within seven days, including high fever, chills, muscle pain, uncontrolled bleeding or bruising and more.
The CDC warned that the virus can also spread through contact with contaminated objects or with infected animals, such as bats.
The World Health Organization warned that the current outbreaks in Tanzania and Equatorial Guinea can turn into epidemics. (Related: Marburg virus kills 5 in Tanzania; over 100 feared to be infected.)
The CDC said it is sending personnel from its National Center for Emerging and Zoonotic Infectious Diseases to both nations to help their respective public health authorities respond to the outbreaks.
The CDC's guidance regarding travel to Equatorial Guinea and Tanzania urged travelers to avoid contact with sick people and healthcare facilities in the ongoing outbreak areas and to watch for symptoms for three weeks after leaving the country.
The two African outbreaks began in January when Equatorial Guinea in west-central Africa announced its first case. Currently, the nation officially has nine cases in three provinces, with an additional 20 probable cases. All 29 cases resulted in deaths.
Around 1,800 miles across the continent in the East African nation of Tanzania, eight cases, including five deaths, have been confirmed by the WHO. The cases are centered around two districts in the northwestern Kagera Region.
The outbreaks in Equatorial Guinea and Tanzania are the first ever reported in either country. Nations neighboring the two are on high alert for potential cross-border infections.
Marburg outbreaks and individual cases in the continent have been recorded in Angola, Congo, Ghana, Kenya, South Africa and Uganda after it was first identified in 1967, according to the WHO.
There are no vaccines or drugs currently authorized for Marburg virus disease. Infection control protocols help prevent transmission, and rehydration treatment and other ancillary therapies that help improve the effects of Marburg's symptoms can also improve people's chances of survival.
There are also some candidates that the WHO and CDC claim have shown promise in Phase 1 clinical trials. Stephanie Nolen, writing for the New York Times, pointed out that the WHO and CDC are interested in deploying these experimental vaccines to Equatorial Guinea and Tanzania to test them in active outbreaks.
Currently, no vaccine supplies have been delivered to the two nations to test them in the current outbreaks. But Dr. John Amuasi, head of the global health department at the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology in Ghana, warned that this could change very quickly.
"The moment an outbreak is detected, there should be a mechanism of moving in quickly," said Amuasi. He added that the WHO and other health organizations like the CDC are generally good at rapidly responding to the spread of viruses. But, for so-called research opportunities, there may be some additional hurdles.
The WHO will need ready-to-ship stockpiles of the vaccine candidates and researchers equipped with the abilities to operate without their on-the-ground presence, placing additional strain on already struggling health systems.
The WHO currently has four vaccine candidates that it wants to test. One of them, owned by the Sabin Vaccine Institute in Washington, D.C., has around 600 doses in vials ready to use and transport.
Learn more about disease outbreaks around the world at Outbreak.news.
Watch this short clip showing how the World Economic Forum is now advertising the Marburg virus, the PCR tests and the vaccines against the disease.