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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 symptoms and signs of viral hemorrhagic fever illnesses?
- How are patients with viral hemorrhagic fever treated?
- How can cases of viral hemorrhagic fever be prevented and controlled?
- What needs to be done to address the threat of viral hemorrhagic fevers?
How are patients with viral hemorrhagic fever treated?
Patients receive supportive therapy, but generally speaking, there is no other treatment or established cure for VHFs. Ribavirin, an anti-viral drug, has been effective in treating some individuals with Lassa fever or HFRS. Treatment with convalescent-phase plasma has been used with success in some patients with Argentine hemorrhagic fever.
How can cases of viral hemorrhagic fever be prevented and controlled?
With the exception of yellow fever and Argentine hemorrhagic fever, for which vaccines have been developed, no vaccines exist that can protect against these diseases. Therefore, prevention efforts must concentrate on avoiding contact with host species. If prevention methods fail and a case of VHF does occur, efforts should focus on preventing further transmission from person to person, if the virus can be transmitted in this way. Because many of the hosts that carry hemorrhagic fever viruses are rodents, disease prevention efforts include:
- controlling rodent populations;
- discouraging rodents from entering or living in homes or workplaces;
- encouraging safe cleanup of rodent nests and droppings.
For hemorrhagic fever viruses spread by arthropod vectors, prevention efforts often focus on community-wide insect and arthropod control. In addition, people are encouraged to use insect repellant, proper clothing, bednets, window screens, and other insect barriers to avoid being bitten.
For those hemorrhagic fever viruses that can be transmitted from one person to another, avoiding close physical contact with infected people and their body fluids is the most important way of controlling the spread of disease. Barrier nursing or infection control techniques include isolating infected individuals and wearing protective clothing. Other infection control recommendations include proper use, disinfection, and disposal of instruments and equipment used in treating or caring for patients with VHF, such as needles and thermometers.
In conjunction with the World Health Organization, CDC has developed practical, hospital-based guidelines, Infection Control for Viral Haemorrhagic Fevers In the African Health Care Setting. The manual can help health-care facilities recognize cases and prevent further hospital-based disease transmission using locally available materials and few financial resources.