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- Viral hemorrhagic fever (VHF) facts*
- What are viral hemorrhagic fevers?
- How are hemorrhagic fever viruses grouped?
- What carries viruses that cause viral hemorrhagic fevers?
- Where are cases of viral hemorrhagic fever found?
- How are hemorrhagic fever viruses transmitted?
- What are the signs and symptoms and signs of viral hemorrhagic fever illnesses?
- How do health care professionals treat patients with viral hemorrhagic fever?
- How can cases of viral hemorrhagic fever be prevented and controlled?
- What needs to be done to address the threat of viral hemorrhagic fevers?
What carries viruses that cause viral hemorrhagic fevers?
Viruses associated with most VHFs are zoonotic. This means that these viruses naturally reside in an animal reservoir host or arthropod vector. They are totally dependent on their hosts for replication and overall survival. For the most part, rodents and arthropods are the main reservoirs for viruses causing VHFs. The multimammate rat, cotton rat, deer mouse, house mouse, and other field rodents are examples of reservoir hosts. Arthropod ticks and mosquitoes serve as vectors for some of the illnesses. However, the hosts of some viruses remain unknown -- Ebola and Marburg viruses are well-known examples.
Where are cases of viral hemorrhagic fever found?
Taken together, the viruses that cause VHFs are distributed over much of the globe. However, because each virus is associated with one or more particular host species, the virus and the disease it causes are usually seen only where the host species live(s). Some hosts, such as the rodent species carrying several of the New World arenaviruses, live in geographically restricted areas. Therefore, the risk of getting VHFs caused by these viruses is restricted to those areas. Other hosts range over continents, such as the rodents that carry viruses which cause various forms of hantavirus pulmonary syndrome (HPS) in North and South America, or the different set of rodents that carry viruses which cause hemorrhagic fever with renal syndrome (HFRS) in Europe and Asia. A few hosts are distributed nearly worldwide, such as the common rat. It can carry Seoul virus, a cause of HFRS; therefore, humans can get HFRS anywhere where the common rat is found.
While people usually become infected only in areas where the host lives, occasionally people become infected by a host that has been exported from its native habitat. For example, the first outbreaks of Marburg hemorrhagic fever, in Marburg and Frankfurt, Germany, and in Yugoslavia, occurred when laboratory workers handled imported monkeys infected with Marburg virus. Occasionally, a person becomes infected in an area where the virus occurs naturally and then travels elsewhere. If the virus is a type that can be transmitted further by person-to-person contact, the traveler could infect other people. For instance, in 1996, a medical professional treating patients with Ebola hemorrhagic fever (Ebola HF) in Gabon unknowingly became infected. When he later traveled to South Africa and was treated for Ebola HF in a hospital, the virus was transmitted to a nurse. She became ill and died. Because more and more people travel each year, outbreaks of these diseases are becoming an increasing threat in places where they rarely, if ever, have been seen before.