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Viral Hemorrhagic Fever: Causes, Symptoms, Complications, Treatment, and Prevention.

What is Viral Hemorrhagic Fever?

Viral hemorrhagic fever (VHF) is an illness caused by viruses belonging to several distinct families. It affects blood clotting and damages the walls of the blood vessels causing internal bleeding.  This internal bleeding can be life threatening.  Viral hemorrhagic fevers most commonly occur in the tropical regions of the world.

Viral hemorrhagic fever

The most common viral hemorrhagic fevers include:

  • Ebola
  • Dengue
  • Marburg
  • Lassa fever
  • Yellow fever

Viral hemorrhagic fevers are mostly restricted to a particular geographical area. However, the outbreak of the virus can occur when an infected person accidentally spreads the infection in another city. Humans are infected with hemorrhagic fevers when they come in contact with infected animal or insect host.

What are the Causes of Viral Hemorrhagic Fever?

Viral hemorrhagic fevers are the zoonotic diseases, which are mainly spread by contact with the infected animals or insects. VHF is caused by viruses belonging to four families, which include:

  • Arenaviruses: Jupin, Machupo, and Lassa fever virus
  • Bunyaviruses: Crimean-Congo hemorrhagic fever (CCHF) and rift valley fever (RVF)
  • Filoviruses: Marburg virus and Ebola virus
  • Flaviviruses: Dengue and yellow fever

The survival ability of these viruses depends on the host organism. Hemorrhagic viruses are transmitted or carried from animal hosts to humans. It occurs when humans come in contact with the saliva, urine, or the other body fluids of the infected hosts.

The viruses can also spread from person to person when an uninfected person comes in close contact with the body fluids of the person with the viral infection. Also, the infection can spread by the bite of an arthropod vector (agents or organisms that spread the disease).

Symptoms of Viral Hemorrhagic Fever:

The typical signs and symptoms of viral hemorrhagic fever include:

  • Fever
  • Muscle pain
  • Headache
  • Fatigue
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Edema
  • Dizziness
  • Unusual weakness
  • Joint aches
  • Decreased blood pressure (hypotension)

The signs and symptoms of severe viral infection include:

  • Respiratory fever
  • Sepsis (blood poisoning)
  • Kidney problems
  • Nervous system malfunctions
  • Shock
  • Liver failure
  • Seizures

Risk Factors:

The following are the individuals who are more prone to the risk of developing viral hemorrhagic fever:

  • People who are traveling to the places where there is an outbreak of VHF
  • Individuals who are working closely with slaughtering infected animals
  • People who participate in unprotected sex are at an increased risk of developing viral hemorrhagic fever
  • People working under unhygienic conditions are prone to the risk of viral hemorrhagic fever
  • Individuals who come in contact with the body fluids or secretions of the infected person are at risk for attaining the infection
  • People working in a laboratory that tests hemorrhagic fever viruses are at higher risk of developing the condition
  • Individuals who work at rat-infested buildings are at the risk of contracting viral hemorrhagic fevers


The viral hemorrhagic fever can progress rapidly and can result in numerous complications. Also, in some cases, untreated viral hemorrhagic fever can be fatal. Some of the common complications resulting from VHF include:

  • Hepatitis
  • Transverse myelitis
  • Uveitis
  • Miscarriage
  • Arthritis
  • Neurological problems
  • Renal insufficiency

Apart from the above complications, viral hemorrhagic fever can cause damage to organs, such as heart, lung, spleen, liver, and kidneys.


Most of the times, it is difficult to diagnose viral hemorrhagic fever at early stages. The initial signs and symptoms of VHF, such as high fever, fatigue, and muscle aches can be due to other illnesses.

To diagnose the condition, the doctor performs a routine physical examination and review the medical history. The doctor will ask to describe the symptoms, and places visited recently to identify the possible sources of infection. The doctor would recommend the following tests to diagnose viral hemorrhagic fever.

Blood tests: A sample of the blood is collected and tested to determine the causative organism. As viral hemorrhagic fevers are highly contagious, these tests are performed under strict precautionary measures.

Treatment of Viral Hemorrhagic Fever:

There is no cure or specific treatment for viral hemorrhagic fevers. However, the doctor will prescribe antiviral medications, such as ribavirin to prevent the risk of further complications.


  • Add a tea spoon of turmeric in a cup of warm milk and consume it once in a day. Turmeric helps to treat gastrointestinal upset and arthritic pain caused by viral infection.
  • The polyphenols in green tea have several antiviral properties, which help to boost the immune system response.
  • Ginger helps to fasten the recovery and ease the respiratory and gastrointestinal problems that resulted from viral infection.
  • Soak a soft cloth or sponge in cold water and compress it on the forehead to reduce moderate to high-grade fever caused by viral infection.
  • Drink plenty of fluidsto maintain the balance of electrolytes and prevent dehydration.

Prevention of Viral Hemorrhagic Fever:

The following are some of the preventive measures to reduce the risk for viral hemorrhagic fevers:

  • Stay away from the places where there is an outbreak of the disease
  • Avoid close contact with the person who is infected with the virus
  • Maintain clean and hygiene in the surrounding areas
  • Use proper insect barriers, such as repellents, bed nets, and window screens
  • Stay away from rodent nests and droppings, especially when there is an outbreak of the disease
  • Use mosquito repellent ointments, especially during dusk and dawn
  • Dispose of the garbage without keeping them for longer periods


1. How can someone suspect viral hemorrhagic fevers (VHFs)?

Usually, viral hemorrhagic fevers are characterized by high fever, muscle ache, and severe headaches. Also, people with viral infection experience symptoms, such as vomiting, diarrhea, and abdominal pain. Seek immediate medical advice if any of the above symptoms are noticed.

2. What care should be taken while living with a person diagnosed for viral hemorrhagic fever?

The following measures help to prevent the spread of infection:

  • Make sure that the infected person covers the nose and mouth while sneezing and coughing.
  • Clean the home on a regular basis with a disinfectant to avoid the spread of germs.
  • Use disposable tissues and throw them immediately, rather than cloth handkerchiefs to reduce the spread of infection.

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