Medical Definition of Epidemic hemorrhagic fever

  • Medical Author:
    William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

    Dr. Shiel received a Bachelor of Science degree with honors from the University of Notre Dame. There he was involved in research in radiation biology and received the Huisking Scholarship. After graduating from St. Louis University School of Medicine, he completed his Internal Medicine residency and Rheumatology fellowship at the University of California, Irvine. He is board-certified in Internal Medicine and Rheumatology.

Epidemic hemorrhagic fever: A syndrome caused by a hantavirus which is transmitted to humans by contact with infected rodents urine or feces. Patients typically develop a high fever, cough, shortness of breath and abdominal or back pain and may go on to develop kidney failure, which is usually temporary.

Many arboviruses (including those in the families Togaviridae, Flaviviridae, Filoviridae, and Bunyaviridae) and the Hantaviruses, spread by rodents or biting insects, can cause epidemic hemorrhagic fever. The Ebola virus is a notorious cause of epidemic hemorrhagic fever.

Bioterrorism -- There has been concern about the hemorrhagic fever as a possible weapon for bioterrorism. However, the General Accounting Office, the investigative arm of the US Congress, in a 1999 report considered hemorrhagic fever to be an "unlikely" biologic threat for terrorism, because these viruses are very difficult to obtain and process, unsafe to handle, and relatively unstable. The lethal effects of these viruses were deemed by the GAO to depend on the strain but can be "very high."

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Reviewed on 12/27/2018

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