Viral haemorrhagic fever syndrome is a group of serious illnesses caused by several viruses of different families, which damage the vascular system leading to excessive bleeding called haemorrhages. These syndromes are life-threatening but occur rarely in humans worldwide.
How do these viruses spread?
These viruses reside in animals (rodents, ticks, bats, mosquitoes, etc.) and arthropods which serve as vector hosts. Therefore, these diseases are usually restricted to a particular geographical location but can spread to a wider area if they accidentally attack humans who travel (e.g. Ebola virus, Marburg virus).
These viruses get transmitted through different modes. They can get transmitted when the humans come in contact with the bodily fluids of these vector hosts such as their saliva, urine, or through feces or by feeding on these animals. Also, inhalation of the virus particles in the form of droplets can lead to the exposure to these viruses.
They can spread from one person to the other when they come in contact with bodily fluids of the infected person such as during blood transfusions. Certain viruses can spread when the objects contaminated with the infectious agent are used by a healthy person (such as the use of needles or syringes etc.)
Your risk of infection is high if you have unprotected sex, work together with the sick, share the needles to use intravenous drugs, work in slaughtering houses, etc.
How to identify if you are infected with these viruses
The symptoms of haemorrhagic fevers vary with the type of the infectious agent. However, the general symptoms include the following:
Mild symptoms: High fever (up to 38oC), fatigue, dizziness, and muscle or joint pain.
Serious symptoms: Severe cases of these viral infections can cause bleeding which may not be fatal in most of the patients. Bleeding can occur either internally or under the skin or from the mouth, nose, ears or eyes. The other serious symptoms include shock, coma, nervous system disorders, delirium, respiratory failure, kidney or liver failure, sepsis.
If you experience any of the above symptoms then you must immediately consult a doctor.
Diagnosis of the type of haemorrhagic fever syndrome
Your doctor may require your medical history and travel history. So be sure to know the details before you contact your doctor.
The diagnostic tests are carried out in specially designed laboratories, following strict precautions to prevent the lab technicians from getting infected. Blood tests are performed to check for the presence of the virus and confirm the type.
What are the complications of the haemorrhagic fever syndromes?
If a timely intervention is not available, then the haemorrhagic fever syndromes can lead to the complications of brain, kidney, heart, liver or lungs and can lead to the death of the patient.
What is the medical intervention for the viral haemorrhagic fever syndromes?
There is no established therapy for viral haemorrhagic fevers. Only a supportive therapy is provided to most of the patients. The primary intervention for viral haemorrhagic fever syndromes is to administer fluids to prevent dehydration. Some patients may benefit from dialysis to remove the waste materials when complications such as kidney failure occur.
Antivirals such as ribavirin are effective in treating few of these infections (for example the Lassa virus). Convalescent-phase plasma can be successfully used in the treatment of Argentine hemorrhagic fever.
How to keep yourself away from getting infected?
There is no medication available so far to prevent the infection. Vaccines have not been developed for these viruses. Yellow fever is the only haemorrhagic fever syndrome which can be prevented through vaccination. Therefore, it is better to adopt certain preventive measures to reduce your risk of getting sick with the infection.
- Maintain at least 3 feet distance from the infected persons
- Do not touch the bodily fluids (vomit, saliva or blood) of the infected patients
- Regularly wash your hands with antiseptics after having a contact with the infected person.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth with your hands as it is the source for the entry of the microbes into your body.
- Control the rodent population in and around your premises and do not allow them to enter your house. Clean up the discharges from the animals.
- To control the infections spread through arthropods and insects, you may make some efforts such as the use of insect repellants, window screens, bednets, wearing a proper clothing to prevent the insect bites.
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- Cobo F. Viruses Causing Hemorrhagic Fever. Safety Laboratory Procedures. Open Virol J. 2016 Jan 15;10:1-9.
- Hui DS, Lee N, Chan PK. Update in Viral Infections 2014. Am J Respir Crit Care Med. 2015 Sep 15;192(6):676-81.