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hemorrhagic fever(hĕm'ərăj`ĭk), any of a group of viral diseases characterized by sudden onset, muscle and joint pain, fever, bleeding, and shock from loss of blood. Bleeding occurs in the form of leakage from capillaries in the internal organs and the skin and mucous membranes. The causative viruses may be transmitted to humans by insects, ticks, or rodents, but in the case of the African hemorrhagic fevers, Ebola and Marburg, the animal carrier is unknown. In addition to Ebola and Marburg, well-known hemorrhagic fevers include hantavirushantavirus,
any of a genus (Hantavirus) of single-stranded RNA viruses that are carried by rodents and transmitted to humans when they inhale vapors from contaminated rodent urine, saliva, or feces. There are many strains of hantavirus.
..... Click the link for more information. , Lassa feverLassa fever
, an acute viral disease occurring mostly in W Africa, characterized by high fever, muscle aches, mouth ulcers, and bleeding in the skin in more severe cases. The disease was first recognized in Lassa, Nigeria, in 1969.
..... Click the link for more information. , yellow feveryellow fever,
acute infectious disease endemic in tropical Africa and many areas of South and Central America. Yellow fever is caused by a virus transmitted by the bite of the female Aedes aegypti mosquito, which breeds in stagnant water near human habitations.
..... Click the link for more information. , and a severe form of dengue called dengue hemorrhagic fever (see dengue feverdengue fever
, acute infectious disease caused by four closely related viruses and transmitted by the bite of the female Aedes mosquito; it is also known as breakbone fever and bone-crusher disease.
..... Click the link for more information. ; see also Ebola virusEbola virus
, a member of a family (Filovidae) of RNA viruses that cause hemorrhagic fevers. The virus, named for the region in Congo (Kinshasa) where it was first identified in 1976, emerged from the rain forest, where it survives in as yet unconfirmed hosts, possibly
..... Click the link for more information. ).
Ebola and Marburg are closely related, newly emergent viruses that have in recent years caused epidemics in central Africa, with very high rates of mortality. Hantavirus occurs in many different parts of the world and is spread to humans from field rodents via microscopic bits of their excretions that get into the air and are inhaled. It was originally known as a disease of Asia and Europe that primarily attacked the kidneys, but a more deadly pulmonary form of hantavirus infection has more recently caused numerous fatalities in the United States, Chile, and other countries. Lassa fever, also spread to humans from rodent excretions, occurs primarily in W Africa. Closely related to the Lassa virus are the Junin and Machupo viruses, which have caused outbreaks of hemorrhagic fever in South America. Yellow fever, transmitted by the bite of a mosquito, still occurs in tropical areas despite largely successful control efforts. Dengue hemorrhagic fever, also spread by mosquitoes, has in recent years caused many fatalities among children in tropical countries.
There is usually no specific treatment to combat the viruses that cause hemorrhagic fevers. One exception is the drug ribavirin, which has been effective in treating Lassa fever and has also been used to treat a form of hantavirus infection and Crimean-Congo hemorrhagic fever. Treatment generally consists of such supportive measures as the replacement of lost blood, the maintainence of fluid balance, and the alleviation of symptoms. Survival depends largely upon the virulence of the virus strain and the quality of treatment. An experimental vaccine for Ebola was developed and used in a limited manner against the strain that caused the 2013–15 West African outbreak, but its long-term effectiveness is unclear.
See R. Reston, The Hot Zone (1994).