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Hemorrhagic Fevers and Diseases

Hemorrhagic Fevers and Diseases

BRIAN D. HOYLE

Hemorrhagic diseases are caused by infection with viruses or bacteria. As the name implies, a hallmark of a hemorrhagic disease is copious bleeding. The onset of a hemorrhagic fever or disease can lead to relatively mild symptoms that clear up within a short time. However, hemorrhagic diseases are most recognized because of the ferocity and lethality of their symptoms as well as the speed at which they render a person extremely ill.

High rates of infection, easy transmission, and high levels of morbidity (illness) and mortality (death) mean that some hemorrhagic viruses hold the potential for use as biological weapons. Viruses including, but not limited, Ebola, Marburg, Lassa fever, and New World arenaviruses, offer characteristics desirable in potential bioweapon agents.

Four groups of hemorrhagic viruses. The viruses that cause hemorrhagic diseases are members of four groups. These are the arenaviruses, filoviruses, bunyaviruses, and the flaviviruses. Arenaviruses are the cause of Argentine hemorrhagic fever, Bolivian hemorrhagic fever, Sabiaassociated hemorrhagic fever, Lassa fever, Lymphocytic choriomeningitis, and Venezuelan hemorrhagic fever. The bunyavirus group causes Crimean-Congo hemorrhagic fever, Rift Valley fever, and Hantavirus pulmonary syndrome. Filoviruses are the cause of Ebola hemorrhagic fever and Marburg hemorrhagic fever. Lastly, the flaviviruses cause tick-borne encephalitis, yellow fever, Dengue hemorrhagic fever, Kyasanur Forest disease, and Omsk hemorrhagic fever.

Virtually all the hemorrhagic diseases of microbiological origin that arise with any frequency are caused by viruses. The various viral diseases are also known as viral hemorrhagic fevers. Bacterial infections that lead to hemorrhagic fever are rare. One example is a bacterium known as scrub typhus.

None of the known viral hemorrhagic diseases are indigenous to the United States (i.e., none occur naturally). Accordingly, a primary risk factor of viral hemorrhagic diseases includes travel to areas where the virus is indigenous (e.g., portions of Africa, Asia, the Middle East, and South America).

Work with these viruses must only be conducted in high containment (BSL-4) laboratories. There are two such labs in the U.S.; one is located at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and the other at the United States Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases (USAMRIID). All personnel at these laboratories must wear protective clothing (e.g., double-gloves, biohazard suits, shoe coverings, face shields, respirators, etc.) and often work in negative pressure rooms.

Although Ribavirin, an antiviral medication, has shown some effectiveness against arenaviridae and bunyaviridae viruses, there are currently no antiviral medications effective against filoviridae and flaviviridae viruses. A vaccine exists for only yellow fever. Insect vectors are controlled by a concerted campaign of spraying and observance of precautionary measures (e.g., use of insect repellent, proper clothing, insect netting over sleeping areas, etc.).

Molecular biology and modes of transmission. While the viruses in the groups display differences in structure and severity of the symptoms they can cause, there are some features that are shared by all the viruses. For instance, all the hemorrhagic viruses contain ribonucleic acid as their genetic material. The nucleic acid is contained within a so-called envelope that is typically made of lipids. Additionally, all the viruses require a host in which to live. The animal or insect that serves as the host is also called the natural reservoir of the particular virus. This natural reservoir does not include humans. Infection of humans occurs only incidentally upon contact with the natural reservoir.

Symptoms of hemorrhagic diseases can progress from mild to catastrophic in only hours. As a result, an outbreak of hemorrhagic disease tends to be self-limiting in a short time. In some cases, this is because the high death rate of those who are infected literally leaves the virus with no host to infect. Often the outbreak fades away as quickly as it appeared.

Hemorrhagic-fever-related illnesses appear in a geographical area where the natural reservoir and humans are both present. If the contact between the two species is close enough, then the disease-causing microorganism may be able to pass from the species that is the natural reservoir to the human.

Although little is clear about the state of the microbes in their natural hosts, it is reasonably clear now that the viruses do not damage these hosts as much as they do a human who acquires the microorganisms. Clarifying the reasons for the resistance of the natural host to the infections would be helpful in finding an effective treatment for human hemorrhagic diseases.

The speed at which hemorrhagic fevers appear and end in human populations, combined with their frequent occurrence in relatively isolated areas of the globe has made detailed study difficult. Even though some of the diseases, such as Argentine hemorrhagic fever, have been known for almost 50 years, knowledge of the molecular basis of the disease is lacking. For example, while it is apparent that some hemorrhagic viruses can be transmitted through the air as aerosols, the pathway of infection once the microorganism has been inhaled is still largely unknown.

The transmission of hemorrhagic viruses from the animal reservoir to humans makes the viruses the quintessential zoonotic disease. For some of the viruses, the host has been determined. Hosts include the cotton rat, deer mouse, house mouse, arthropod ticks, and mosqitoes. However, for other viruses, such as the Ebola and Marburg viruses, the natural host still remains undetermined. Outbreaks with the Ebola and Marburg viruses have involved transfer of the virus to humans via primates. Whether the primate is the natural host or acquired the virus as the result of contact with the true natural host is not clear.

Another fairly common feature of hemorrhagic diseases is that once humans are infected with the agent of the disease, human-to-human transmission can occur. Often this transmission is via body fluids that accidentally contact a person who is offering care to the afflicted person.

Hemorrhagic diseases typically begin with a fever, a feeling of tiredness, and aching muscles. These symptoms may not progress further, and recovery may occur within a short time. However, damage that is more serious often is characterized by copious bleeding, especially from orifices such as the mouth, eyes, and ears. More seriously, internal bleeding also occurs as organs are attacked by the infection. Death can result, though usually not from direct loss of blood, but from nervous system failure, coma, or seizures.

FURTHER READING:

BOOKS:

Andreoli, Thomas E., et al. Cecil Essentials of Medicine. Philadelphia: W. B. Saunders, 1993.

Cormican, M. G., and M. A. Pfaller. "Molecular Pathology of Infectious Diseases," in Clinical Diagnosis and Management by Laboratory Methods. 20th ed. Philadelphia: W. B. Saunders, 2001.

PERIODICALS:

Dutton, Gail. "Biotechnology Counters Bioterrorism." Genetic Engineering News no. 21 (December 2000): 122ff.

Peters, C. J., and J. W. LeDuc. "An Introduction to Ebola: The Virus and the Disease." The Journal of Infectious Diseases no. 179 (Supplement 1, February 1999): ixxvi.

ELECTRONIC:

Centers for Disease Control. "Ebola Hemorrhagic Fever." 2001. <http://www.cdc.gov/ncidod/dvrd/spb/mnpages/dispages/ebola.htm> (March 12, 2003).

Centers for Disease Control. "Viral Hemorrhagic Fevers." 2000. <http://www.cdc.gov/ncidod/dvrd/spb/mnpages/dispages/vhf.htm> (March 12, 2003).

Centers for Disease Control. "Yellow Fever: Disease and Vaccine." 2001. <http://www.cdc.gov/ncidod/dvbid/yellowfever/index.htm> (March 12, 2003).

SEE ALSO

Biological Warfare
Biological Weapons, Genetic Identification
Bioshield Project
Bioterrorism
Bioterrorism, Protective Measures
CDC (United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention)
Chemical and Biological Detection Technologies

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Hemorrhagic Fevers and Diseases

Hemorrhagic Fevers and Diseases

Hemorrhagic diseases are caused by infection with viruses or bacteria. As the name implies, a hallmark of a hemorrhagic disease is copious bleeding. The onset of a hemorrhagic fever or disease can lead to relatively mild symptoms that clear up within a short time.

Hemorrhagic diseases occur naturally, and are fortunately rare. However, the ferocity and lethality of their symptoms as well as the speed at which they render a person extremely ill has been exploited in weaponry.

This weaponization has made the use of forensic science in the detection of the use of the agents of hemorrhagic fevers and diseases very important. A recent example is the tremendous effort of United Nations inspectors to unearth evidence of biological weapons before the United States began the war in Iraq in 2003.

The viruses that cause hemorrhagic diseases are members of four groups. These are the arenaviruses, filoviruses, bunyaviruses, and the flaviviruses. Arena-viruses are the cause of Argentine hemorrhagic fever, Bolivian hemorrhagic fever, Sabia-associated hemorrhagic fever, Lassa fever, Lymphocytic chorio-meningitis, and Venezuelan hemorrhagic fever. The Bunyavirus group causes Crimean-Congo hemorrhagic fever, Rift Valley fever, and Hantavirus pulmonary syndrome. Filoviruses are the cause of Ebola hemorrhagic fever and Marburg hemorrhagic fever. Lastly, the Flaviviruses cause tick-borne encephalitis, yellow fever, Dengue hemorrhagic fever, Kyasanur Forest disease, and Omsk hemorrhagic fever.

Virtually all the hemorrhagic diseases of microbiological origin that arise with any frequency are caused by viruses. The various viral diseases are also known as viral hemorrhagic fevers. Bacterial infections that lead to hemorrhagic fever are rare, though one example is a bacterium known as scrub typhus.

Few of the known viral hemorrhagic diseases occur naturally in the United States. Accordingly, a primary risk factor for viral hemorrhagic diseases is travel to areas where the virus is indigenous (e.g., portions of Africa, Asia, the Middle East, and South America).

Forensic investigations of hemorrhagic fevers and diseases are not routine operations because of the tremendous health risk posed by the infectious agents. Work must only be conducted in high containment (BSL-4) laboratories. As of 2005, there are four such labs in the U.S.; two in the Washington, D.C. area, one at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in Atlanta, and the other in San Antonio.

All personnel who work with these highly infectious viruses must wear protective clothing (e.g., double-gloves, biohazard suits, shoe coverings, face shields, respirators, etc.) and must often work in negative pressure rooms.

While the viruses in the groups display differences in structure and severity of the symptoms they can cause, there are some features that are shared by all the viruses. For instance, all the hemorrhagic viruses contain ribonucleic acid as their genetic material. The nucleic acid is contained within a so-called envelope that is typically made of lipid. Additionally, all the viruses require a host in which to live. The animal or insect that serves as the host is also called the natural reservoir of the particular virus. This natural reservoir does not include humans. Infection of humans occurs only incidentally upon contact with the natural reservoir.

Hemorrhagic diseases can result in symptoms that can progress from mild to catastrophic in only hours. As a result, an outbreak of hemorrhagic disease tends to be self-limiting in a short time. In some cases, this is because the high death rate of those who are infected literally leaves the virus with no host to infect. Often the outbreak fades away as quickly as it appeared.

Hemorrhagic fever-related illnesses appear in a geographical area where the natural reservoir and human are both present. If the contact between the two species is close enough, then the disease causing microorganism may be able to pass from the species that is the natural reservoir to the human.

Although little is still clear about the state of the microbes in their natural hosts, it is reasonably clear now that the viruses do not damage these hosts as much as they do a human who acquires the microorganisms. Clarifying the reasons for the resistance of the natural host to the infections would be helpful in finding an effective treatment for human hemorrhagic diseases.

The speed at which hemorrhagic fevers appear and end in human populations, combined with their frequent occurrence in relatively isolated areas of the globe has made detailed study difficult. Even though some of the diseases, such as Argentine hemorrhagic fever, have been known for almost 50 years, knowledge of the molecular basis of the disease is lacking. For example, while it is apparent that some hemorrhagic viruses can be transmitted through the air as aerosols, the pathway of infection once the microorganism has been inhaled is still largely unknown.

The transmission of hemorrhagic viruses from the animal reservoir to humans makes the viruses the quintessential zoonotic disease. For some of the viruses the host has been determined. Hosts include the cotton rat, deer mouse, house mouse, arthropod ticks, and mosquitoes. However, for other viruses, such as the Ebola and Marburg viruses, the natural host still remains undetermined. Outbreaks with the Ebola and Marburg viruses have involved transfer of the virus to human via primates. Whether the primate is the natural host or acquired the virus as the result of contact with the true natural host is not clear.

Another fairly common feature of hemorrhagic diseases is that once humans are infected with the agent of the disease, human-to-human transmission can occur. Often this transmission can be via body fluids that accidentally contact a person who is offering care to the afflicted person.

Hemorrhagic diseases typically begin with a fever, a feeling of tiredness, aching of muscles. These symptoms may not progress further, and recovery may occur within a short time. However, damage that is more serious can occur, which is characterized by copious bleeding, often from orifices such as the mouth, eyes, and ears. More seriously, internal bleeding also occurs, as organs are attacked by the infection. Death can result, usually not from loss of blood , but from nervous system failure, coma, or seizures.

see also Ebola virus; Pathogens; Variola virus.

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Hemorrhagic Fevers and Diseases

Hemorrhagic fevers and diseases

Hemorrhagic diseases are caused by infection with viruses or bacteria . As the name implies, a hallmark of a hemorrhagic disease is copious bleeding. The onset of a hemorrhagic fever or disease can lead to relatively mild symptoms that clear up within a short time. However, hemorrhagic diseases are most recognized because of the ferocity and lethality of their symptoms as well as the speed at which they render a person extremely ill.

Virtually all the hemorrhagic diseases of microbiological origin that arise with any frequency are caused by viruses. The various viral diseases are also known as viral hemorrhagic fevers. Bacterial infections that lead to hemorrhagic fever are rare. One example is a bacterium known as scrub typhus .

The viruses that cause hemorrhagic diseases are members of four groups. These are the arenaviruses, filoviruses, bunyaviruses, and the flaviviruses. Arenaviruses are the cause of Argentine hemorrhagic fever, Bolivian hemorrhagic fever, Sabia-associated hemorrhagic fever, Lassa fever, Lymphocytic choriomeningitis, and Venezuelan hemorrhagic fever. The Bunyavirus group causes Crimean-Congo hemorrhagic fever, Rift Valley fever, and Hantavirus pulmonary syndrome. Filoviruses are the cause of Ebola hemorrhagic fever and Marburg hemorrhagic fever. Lastly, the Flaviviruses cause tick-borne encephalitis, yellow fever , Dengue hemorrhagic fever, Kyasanur Forest disease, and Omsk hemorrhagic fever.

While the viruses in the groups display differences in structure and severity of the symptoms they can cause, there are some features that are shared by all the viruses. For instance, all the hemorrhagic viruses contain ribonucleic acid as their genetic material. The nucleic acid is contained within a so-called envelope that is typically made of lipid. Additionally, all the viruses require a host in which to live. The animal or insect that serves as the host is also called the natural reservoir of the particular virus. This natural reservoir does not include humans. Infection of humans occurs only incidentally upon contact with the natural reservoir.

Hemorrhagic diseases can be devastating for the victim. The symptoms can progress from mild to catastrophic in only hours. As a result, an outbreak of hemorrhagic disease tends to be self-limiting in a short time. In some cases, this is because the high death rate of those who are infected literally leaves the virus with no host to infect. Often the outbreak fades away as quickly as it appeared.

Hemorrhagic fever related illnesses appear in a geographical area where the natural reservoir and human are both present. If the contact between the two species is close enough, then the disease causing microorganism may be able to pass from the species that is the natural reservoir to the human.

Although little is still clear about the state of the microbes in their natural hosts, it is reasonably clear now that the viruses do not damage these hosts as much as they do a human who acquires the microorganisms . Clarifying the reasons for the resistance of the natural host to the infections would be helpful in finding an effective treatment for human hemorrhagic diseases.

The speed at which hemorrhagic fevers appear and end in human populations, combined with their frequent occurrence in relatively isolated areas of the globe has made detailed study difficult. Even though some of the diseases, such as Argentine hemorrhagic fever, have been known for almost 50 years, knowledge of the molecular basis of the disease is lacking. For example, while it is apparent that some hemorrhagic viruses can be transmitted through the air as aerosols, the pathway of infection once the microorganism has been inhaled is still largely unknown.

The transmission of hemorrhagic viruses from the animal reservoir to humans makes the viruses the quintessential zoonotic disease. For some of the viruses the host has been determined. Hosts include the cotton rat, deer mouse, house mouse, arthropod ticks, and mosquitoes. However, for other viruses, such as the Ebola and Marburg viruses, the natural host still remains undetermined. Outbreaks with the Ebola and Marburg viruses have involved transfer of the virus to human via primates. But, whether the primate is the natural host, or acquired the virus as the result of contact with the true natural host is not clear.

Another fairly common feature of hemorrhagic diseases is that once humans are infected with the agent of the disease, human-to-human transmission can occur. Often this transmission can be via body fluids that accidently contact a person who is offering care to the afflicted person.

Hemorrhagic diseases typically begin with a fever, a feeling of tiredness, aching of muscles. These symptoms may not progress further, and recovery may occur within a short time. However, damage that is more serious can occur, which is characterized by copious bleeding, often from orifices such as the mouth, eyes, and ears. More seriously, internal bleeding also occurs, as organs are attacked by the infection. Death can result, usually not from loss of blood, but from nervous system failure, coma, or seizures.

Hemorrhagic diseases are difficult to treat. Vaccines are available to only yellow fever and Argentine hemorrhagic fever. For the remaining diseases, the best policy is to curb the potential for human interaction with the natural reservoir of the microbe. For example, in the case of hantavirus pulmonary syndrome, control of the rodent population, especially after a rainy season when numbers naturally increase, is a wise course. Insect vectors are controlled by a concerted campaign of spraying and observance of precautionary measures (e.g., use of insect repellent, proper clothing, insect netting over sleeping areas, etc.).

See also Public health, current issues; Viruses and response to viral infection

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haemorrhagic disease of the newborn

haemorrhagic disease of the newborn (hemorrhagic disease of the newborn) Name formerly given to excessive bleeding due to vitamin K deficiency, now known as vitamin K deficiency bleeding in infancy; in most countries infants are given vitamin K shortly after birth to prevent this rare but potentially fatal condition.

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haemorrhagic disease of the newborn

haemorrhagic disease of the newborn n. a transient disorder of newborn infants in which prolonged bleeding may result from the slightest injury. It is caused by deficiency of vitamin K and therefore of prothrombin, which is necessary for blood clotting.

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Hemorrhagic Fevers and Diseases

Hemorrhagic Fevers and Diseases

Viral types and characteristics

Ebola and other hemorrhagic diseases

Vaccine and treatment

Resources

Hemorrhagic diseases are caused by infection with certain viruses or bacteria. Viruses cause virtually all the hemorrhagic diseases of microbiological origin that arise with any frequency. The various viral diseases are also known as viral hemorrhagic fevers. Bacterial hemorrhagic disease does occur, but rarely. One example of a bacterial hemorrhagic disease is scrub typhus.

Bleeding is the hallmark of a hemorrhagic disease. The onset of a hemorrhagic fever or disease can produce mild symptoms that clear up quickly. However, most hemorrhagic diseases are infamous because of the speed that some infections take hold, and the ferocity of their symptoms. Many hemorrhagic maladies, such as Ebola, have high mortality rates.

Viral types and characteristics

Four main groups of viruses exist that cause hemorrhagic disease or fever: arenaviruses, filoviruses, bunya-viruses, and flaviviruses. Arenaviruses cause Argentine hemorrhagic fever, Bolivian hemorrhagic fever, Sabia-associated hemorrhagic fever, Lymphocytic choriomeningitis, Venezuelan hemorrhagic fever, and Lassa fever. Members of the filovirus group cause Ebola hemorrhagic fever and Marburg hemorrhagic fever. Bunyaviruses cause Crimean-Congo hemorrhagic fever, Rift Valley fever, and Hantavirus pulmonary syndrome. Lastly, Flaviviruses cause tick-borne encephalitis, yellow fever, Dengue hemorrhagic fever, Kyasanur Forest disease, and Omsk hemorrhagic fever.

These viruses differ in structure and in the severity of the symptoms they can cause. They all, however, share common features. All hemorrhagic viruses contain ribonucleic acid (RNA) as their genetic material. The RNA is protected and confined in a membrane called the viral envelope. The envelope is typically made of lipid. Another feature of hemorrhagic viruses, and indeed of all viruses, is the requirement for a host in which to live and produce new viral particles. Hemorrhagic viruses can live in some non-human mammals, such as primates, and in insects. The primates and insects are described as being natural reservoirs of the particular virus. Humans are not a natural reservoir. Epidemiologists (disease trackers) suspect that initial infections of humans occurs only accidentally when humans and the primate or insect come into close contact.

In contrast to the reservoir host, the presence of the hemorrhagic virus in humans typically produces a serious illness. The symptoms can rapidly progress from mild to life-threatening (i.e., in only hours). While catastrophic for the victims and difficult for health personnel to treat, the rapid nature of the outbreaks has an advantage. Because victims succumb quickly, the transmission of the virus from human to human is limited. An outbreak can appear in a local population and run its course through susceptible victims within a relatively short time, days or a few weeks.

The viruses that cause the various hemorrhagic fevers and diseases do not survive in the host following the disease (the Human Immunodeficiency Virus, in contrast, is able remain latent in the host and survive for prolonged periods of time before symptoms of infection appear). However, people who are recovering from infections caused by Hantavirus and Argentine hemorrhagic fever can excrete infectious viruses in their urine.

The sporadic appearance of hemorrhagic outbreaks and the fact that they often occur in geographically isolated regions (e.g., interior of Africa) has made the study of the diseases difficult. It is known that there is not any timetable to the appearance of a hemorrhagic fever, such as in one season of the year relative to another season. The only factor that is known clearly is that the viruses are passed from the natural host to humans. For many hemorrhagic fevers, how this transfer occurs and why it occurs sporadically are not known.

In some cases, the viruses do not damage their primate or insect hosts as they do a human who acquires the microorganisms. The reasons for this difference are unknown. Researchers are attempting to discover the basis of the natural resistance, as this would help in finding an effective treatment for human hemorrhagic diseases.

The speed at which hemorrhagic fevers appear and end in human populations, combined with their frequent occurrence in relatively isolated areas of the globe has made detailed study difficult. Even though some of the diseases, such as Argentine hemorrhagic fever, have been known for almost 50 years, knowledge of the molecular basis of the disease is lacking. For example, while it is apparent that some hemorrhagic viruses can be transmitted through the air as aerosols, the pathway of infection once the microorganism has been inhaled is still largely unknown.

Hemorrhagic diseases are zoonotic diseases; ones that occur by the transfer of the disease causing agent from a non-human to a human. For some of the hemorrhagic viruses, the reservoir host is known. They include the cotton rat, deer mouse, house mouse, arthropod ticks, and mosquitoes. However, for viruses such as the Ebola and Marburg viruses, the natural host still is not known. Outbreaks with these two viruses have involved transfer of the virus to human via primates. Whether the primate is the natural reservoir host, or whether primates acquire the virus as the result of contact with the true natural reservoir host, is yet another aspect of hemorrhagic diseases that is not clear.

As mentioned, hemorrhagic fevers can rapidly spread through a human population. This is due to human-to-human transmission. This transmission occurs easily, often via body fluids that accidentally contact a person who is caring for the afflicted person. Funeral practices of handling and washing the bodies of the deceased have contributed to human-to-human transmission of Ebola during outbreaks in Sub-Saharan Africa.

Hemorrhagic diseases typically begin with a fever, a feeling of tiredness, and a generalized aching of muscles. In rare instances, symptoms may not progress any further, in which case recovery is rapid. For unknown reasons, however, more serious damage often occurs. Here, symptoms include bleeding from the mouth, eyes, and ears. Internal bleeding also occurs, as organs are attacked and destroyed by the infection. Death is typically the result of the overwhelming damage to the organs, and from the failure of the nervous system. Often, victims have seizures and lapse into a coma prior to death.

Hemorrhagic diseases are difficult to treat. One reason is because of the rapid progression of the disease. Another reason is because vaccines exist for only a few of the diseases (i.e., yellow fever and Argentine hemorrhagic fever). For the remaining diseases, supportive care such as keeping the infected person hydrated is often the only course of action.

To prevent outbreaks, the most effective policy is to curb human interaction with the natural reservoir of the microbe. For example, in the case of hantavirus pulmonary syndrome, scientists discovered in the 1990s that the responsible virus was resident in rodent populations, and that these populations exploded in numbers after rainy periods. Thus, limiting contact with places where the rodents live (i.e., barns), particularly after a rainy period, is a wise practice. Insect vectors are controlled by a spraying and common sense steps, such as use of insect repellent, proper clothing, insect netting over sleeping areas.

Hemorrhagic fevers are significant, not only because of the human suffering they cause, but because some of the viral agents could be exploited as bioweapons. For these reasons, a great deal of research effort is devoted towards understanding the origins and behaviors of the viruses.

Ebola and other hemorrhagic diseases

The Ebola virus is named after a river located in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, where the virus was discovered in 1976. This outbreak occurred in the western part of the African nation of Sudan and in nearby Zaire. In 1979, another outbreak occurred in Zaire. In 1995, an outbreak that involved 316 people occurred in Kikwit, Zaire. Outbreaks have also occurred in the African regions of Gabon and the Ivory Coast.

There are four species of Ebola virus. These differ in their arrangement of their genetic material and in the severity of the infection they cause. Ebola-Zaire, Ebola-Sudan, and Ebola-Ivory Coast cause disease in humans. The fourth species, Ebola-Reston, causes disease in primates.

Ebola-Reston inspired public awareness of hemorrhagic diseases. This virus is named for the United States military primate research facility where the virus was isolated during a 1989 outbreak of the disease in research primates. At that time, there was fear that Ebola-Reston could spread to neighboring Washington, DC. Study of the cause of this outbreak determined that these particular Ebola viruses could remain infectious after becoming dispersed in the air. Four researchers at the facility tested positive for Ebola-Reston antibodies, but showed no signs of illness. Later it was determined that Ebola-Reston, unlike other forms of Ebola, does not cause disease in humans.

Other hemorrhagic viruses can be spread by air. These include the Marburg, Lassa, Congo-Crimean, and hanta viruses. In 2005, one of the largest outbreaks of hemorrhagic fever ever recorded occurred in the Uige province of Angola, where more than 300 people died of Marburg hemorrhagic fever, including mostly children, 14 nurses, and two physicians.

The Junin virus causes the hemorrhagic fever known as Argentine hemorrhagic fever. The virus was discovered in 1955, during a disease outbreak among corn harvesters in Argentina. It was later determined that the virus was spread to the workers by contact when rodent feces that had dried in the cornfields. The same route of transmission is used by the Machupo virus, which causes Bolivian hemorrhagic fever.

Congo-Crimean hemorrhagic fever is transmitted to people by ticks. The tick is likely not the natural reservoir host of the virus, but acquires the virus when it feeds on the natural reservoir host. This identity of the host is not known. This hemorrhagic fever occurs in the Crimea and in regions of Africa, Asia, and Europe.

Another hemorrhagic fever called Rift Valley fever occurs mainly in Africa. Like Ebola, it cause explosive outbreaks of disease.

Hantavirus disease was first described around the time of World War II (19391945), in Manchuria. United Nations troops stationed in Korea during the Korean War (19501953) in the 1950s were sickened with the disease. A lung infection caused by the virus, which can rapidly progress to death, became prominent because of an outbreak in the southwestern region of the United States in the mid-1990s. Like some of the other hemorrhagic fevers, hantavirus pulmonary syndrome is caused by inhalation of dried rodent feces.

Many of the above hemorrhagic fevers were discovered only in the past 50 to 75 years. Other hemorrhagic fevers have a longer history. For example, the causative agent for yellow fever was discovered in the first decade of the twentieth century, when a disease outbreak occurred among workers who were constructing the Panama Canal.

KEY TERMS

Hemorrhagic Involving life-threatening bleeding.

Reservoir host The animal or organism in which the virus or parasite normally resides.

Vector Any agent, living or otherwise, that carries and transmits parasites and diseases.

Zoonoses The transmission of disease to humans from an animal.

The diagnosis of hemorrhagic fevers often requires knowledge of the recent travel of the patient. This helps to clarify what natural hosts the patient may have come in contact with.

Vaccine and treatment

As of 2006, only licensed vaccines for yellow fever and Argentine hemorrhagic fever were available. A vaccine is currently being tested for dengue fever, which should in turn, reduce the occurrence of dengue hemorrhagic fever. Dengue hemorrhagic fever is contracted by repeated infection with differing dengue viruses. The yellow fever vaccine consists of live virus particles that have been modified so as not to be capable of growth or of causing an infection. The virus is capable of stimulating the immune system to produce antiviral antibodies. The vaccine must be taken by those who are traveling to areas of the world where yellow fever is actively present (areas of Africa and South America). The vaccine may have some potential in protecting people from the virus that causes Bolivian hemorrhagic fever.

Vaccines to Rift Valley fever are under development. But these are still undergoing testing and so are not publicly available. Vaccines have not been developed to the other hemorrhagic fevers. An antiviral drug called ribavirin shows potential against Lassa fever.

At the present time, the best methods for preventing the spread of infection for hemorrhagic fevers are minimizing contact with the source of infection, isolation of the infected person, and care when handling the patient. For example, health care workers should be dressed in protective clothing, including gloves and protective facemasks. Also, any material or equipment that comes into contact with the patient should be sterilized to kill any virus that may have adhered to the items.

The devastating infection caused by the hemorrhagic viruses is remarkable given the very small amount of genetic material that the viruses contain. For example, Ebola viruses can produce fewer than 12 proteins. Exactly how the viruses are able to evade the host immune responses, and establish infections is unknown, but two cellular enzymes Ebola virus must have to reproduce were found in 2005. The virus may commandeer the hosts genetic material to produce proteins that it is unable to produce. Or, hemorrhagic viruses may be exquisitely designed infection machines, containing only the resources needed to evade the host and establish an infection. Sequencing of the genetic material of Ebola-Sudan, Ebola-Zaire, and Ebola-Reston is complete, and clues in the genomes of these hemorrhagic viruses could help distinguish between these two possibilities.

See also Immunology; Zoonoses.

Resources

BOOKS

Close, William T. Ebola: Through the Eyes of the People. Marbletown, WY: Meadowlark Springs, 2001.

Specter, S.C., R.L. Hodinka, and S.A. Young. Clinical Virology, 3rd ed. Washington, DC: American Society for Microbiology Press, 2000.

OTHER

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Special Pathogens Branch, National Center for Infectious Diseases, MS A-26, 1600 Clifton Road, Atlanta, GA 30333. (404) 6391510. February 8, 2002. <http://www.cdc.gov/ncidod/dvrd/spb/mnpages/dispages/vhf.htm.> (accessed November 12, 2002).

Brian Hoyle

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Hemorrhagic Fevers and Diseases

Hemorrhagic fevers and diseases

Hemorrhagic diseases are caused by infection with certain viruses or bacteria . Viruses cause virtually all the hemorrhagic diseases of microbiological origin that arise with any frequency. The various viral diseases are also known as viral hemorrhagic fevers. Bacterial hemorrhagic disease does occur, but rarely. One example of a bacterial hemorrhagic disease is scrub typhus .

Copious bleeding is the hallmark of a hemorrhagic disease. The onset of a hemorrhagic fever or disease can produce mild symptoms that clear up quickly. However, most hemorrhagic diseases are infamous because of the speed that some infections take hold, and the ferocity of their symptoms. Such hemorrhagic maladies, such as Ebola, have high mortality rates.

Viral types and characteristics

Four main groups of viruses exist that cause hemorrhagic disease or fever: arenaviruses, filoviruses, bunyaviruses, and flaviviruses. Arenaviruses cause Argentine hemorrhagic fever, Bolivian hemorrhagic fever, Sabia-associated hemorrhagic fever, Lymphocytic choriomeningitis, Venezuelan hemorrhagic fever, and Lassa fever. Members of the filovirus group cause Ebola hemorrhagic fever and Marburg hemorrhagic fever. Bunyaviruses cause Crimean-Congo hemorrhagic fever, Rift Valley fever, and Hantavirus pulmonary syndrome . Lastly, Flaviviruses cause tick-borne encephalitis , yellow fever , Dengue hemorrhagic fever, Kyasanur Forest disease, and Omsk hemorrhagic fever.

These viruses differ in structure and in the severity of the symptoms they can cause. They all, however, share common features. All hemorrhagic viruses contain ribonucleic acid (RNA) as their genetic material. The RNA is protected and confined in a membrane called the viral envelope. The envelope is typically made of lipid . Another feature of hemorrhagic viruses, and indeed of all viruses, is the requirement for a host in which to live and produce new viral particles. Hemorrhagic viruses can live in some non-human mammals , such as primates , and in insects . The primates and insects are described as being natural reservoirs of the particular virus . Humans are not a natural reservoir. Epidemiologists (disease trackers) suspect that initial infections of humans occurs only accidentally when humans and the primate or insect come into close contact.

In contrast to the reservoir host, the presence of the hemorrhagic virus in humans typically produces a devastating illness. The symptoms can progress from mild to catastrophic very rapidly (i.e., in only hours). While catastrophic for the victims and difficult to treat, the rapid nature of the outbreaks has an advantage. Because victims succumb quickly, the transmission of the virus from human to human is limited. An outbreak can appear, ravage a local population, and fade away within days or a few weeks.

The viruses that cause the various hemorrhagic fevers and diseases do not survive in the host following the disease (the Human Immunodeficiency Virus, in contrast, is able be latent in the host, and survive for prolonged periods of time before symptoms of infection appear). However, people who are recovering from infections caused by Hantavirus and Argentine hemorrhagic fever can excrete infectious viruses in their urine.

The sporadic appearance of hemorrhagic outbreaks and the fact that they often occur in geographically isolated regions (e.g., interior of Africa ) has made the study of the diseases difficult. It is known that there is not any timetable to the appearance of a hemorrhagic fever, such as in one season of the year relative to another season. The only factor that is known clearly is that the viruses are passed from the natural host to humans. How this transfer occurs and why it occurs sporadically are not known.

The viruses do not damage their primate or insect hosts as much as they do a human who acquires the microorganisms . The reasons for this difference are unknown. Researchers are attempting to discover the basis of the natural resistance, as this would help in finding an effective treatment for human hemorrhagic diseases.

The speed at which hemorrhagic fevers appear and end in human populations, combined with their frequent occurrence in relatively isolated areas of the globe has made detailed study difficult. Even though some of the diseases, such as Argentine hemorrhagic fever, have been known for almost 50 years, knowledge of the molecular basis of the disease is lacking. For example, while it is apparent that some hemorrhagic viruses can be transmitted through the air as aerosols , the pathway of infection once the microorganism has been inhaled is still largely unknown.

Hemorrhagic diseases are zoonotic diseases; ones that occur by the transfer of the disease causing agent from a non-human to a human. For some of the hemorrhagic viruses, the reservoir host is known. They include the cotton rat, deer mouse , house mouse, arthropod ticks, and mosquitoes . However, for viruses such as the Ebola and Marburg viruses, the natural host still is not known. Outbreaks with these two viruses have involved transfer of the virus to human via primates. Whether the primate is the natural reservoir host, or whether primates acquire the virus as the result of contact with the true natural reservoir host, is yet another aspect of hemorrhagic diseases that is not clear.

As mentioned, hemorrhagic fevers can rapidly spread through a human population. This is due to human-to-human transmission. This transmission occurs easily, often via body fluids that accidentally contact a person who is caring for the afflicted person. Funeral practices of handling and washing the bodies of the deceased have contributed to human-to-human transmission of Ebola during outbreaks in Sub-Saharan Africa.

Hemorrhagic diseases typically begin with a fever, a feeling of tiredness, and a generalized aching of muscles. In rare instances, symptoms may not progress any further, in which case recovery is rapid. For unknown reasons, however, more serious damage often occurs. Here, symptoms include copious bleeding from the mouth, eyes, and ears. Internal bleeding also occurs, as organs are attacked and destroyed by the infection. Death is typically the result of the overwhelming damage to the organs, and from the failure of the nervous system . Often, victims have seizures and lapse into a coma prior to death.

Hemorrhagic diseases are difficult to treat. One reason is because of the rapid progression of the disease. Another reason is because vaccines exist for only a few of the diseases (i.e., yellow fever and Argentine hemorrhagic fever). For the remaining diseases, supportive care such as keeping the infected person hydrated is often the only course of action.

To prevent outbreaks, the most effective policy is to curb human interaction with the natural reservoir of the microbe. For example, in the case of hantavirus pulmonary syndrome, scientists discovered in the 1990s that the responsible virus was resident in rodent populations, and that these populations exploded in numbers after rainy periods. Thus, limiting contact with places where the rodents live (i.e., barns), particularly after a rainy period, is a wise practice. Insect vectors are controlled by a spraying and common sense steps, such as use of insect repellent, proper clothing, insect netting over sleeping areas.

Hemorrhagic fevers are significant, not only because of the human suffering they cause, but because the viral agents could be exploited as bioweapons. For these reasons, a great deal of research effort is devoted towards understanding the origins and behaviors of the viruses.


Ebola and other hemorrhagic diseases

The best-studied hemorrhagic fever is Ebola. The Ebola virus is named after a river located in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, where the virus was discovered in 1976. This outbreak occurred in the western part of the African nation of Sudan and in nearby Zaire. In 1979, another outbreak occurred in Zaire. In 1995, an outbreak that involved 316 people occurred in Kikwit, Zaire. Outbreaks have also occurred in the African regions of Gabon and the Ivory Coast.

There are four species of Ebola virus. These differ in their arrangement of their genetic material and in the severity of the infection they cause. Ebola-Zaire, Ebola-Sudan, and Ebola-Ivory Coast cause disease in humans. The fourth species, Ebola-Reston, causes disease in primates.

Ebola Reston inspired great public awareness and terror of hemorrhagic diseases. This infamous virus is named for the United States military primate research facility where the virus was isolated during a 1989 outbreak of the disease in research primates. At that time, there was fear that Ebola fever could spread to neighboring Washington, DC. Study of the cause of this outbreak determined that Ebola viruses could remain infectious after becoming dispersed in the air. Whether inhalation of the virus plays a major role in the development of the hemorrhagic fever is not clear. The current consensus is that airborne transmission is possible, but is not the principle route of infection.

Other hemorrhagic viruses can be spread by air. These include the Marburg, Lassa, Congo-Crimean, and Hantaviruses.

The Junin virus causes the hemorrhagic fever known as Argentine hemorrhagic fever. The virus was discovered in 1955, during a disease outbreak among corn harvesters in Argentina. It was later determined that the virus was spread to the workers by contact when rodent feces that had dried in the cornfields. The same route of transmission is used by the Machupo virus, which causes Bolivian hemorrhagic fever.

Congo-Crimean hemorrhagic fever is transmitted to people by ticks. The tick is likely not the natural reservoir host of the virus, but acquires the virus when it feeds on the natural reservoir host. This identity of the host is not known. This hemorrhagic fever occurs in the Crimea and in regions of Africa, Asia , and Europe .

Another hemorrhagic fever called Rift Valley fever occurs mainly in Africa. Like Ebola, it cause explosive outbreaks of disease.

Hantavirus disease was first described around the time of World War II, in Manchuria. United Nations troops stationed in Korea during the Korean War in the 1950s were sickened with the disease. A lung infection caused by the virus, which can rapidly progress to death, became prominent because of an outbreak in the southwestern region of the United States in the mid-1990s. Like some of the other hemorrhagic fevers, Hantavirus Pulmonary Syndrome is caused by inhalation of dried rodent feces.

Many of the above hemorrhagic fevers were discovered only in the past 50 to 75 years. Other hemorrhagic fevers have a longer history. For example, yellow fever was discovered in the first decade of the twentieth century, when a disease outbreak occurred among workers who were constructing the Panama Canal.

The diagnosis of hemorrhagic fevers often requires knowledge of the recent travel of the patient. This helps to clarify what natural hosts the patient may have come in contact with.


Vaccine and treatment

As of 2003, the only licensed vaccine for a hemorrhagic fever is that available for yellow fever. The vaccine consists of live virus particles that have been modified so as not to be capable of growth or of causing an infection. The virus is capable of stimulating the immune system to produce antiviral antibodies. The vaccine must be taken by those who are traveling to areas of the world where yellow fever is actively present (areas of Africa and South America ). The vaccine may have some potential in protecting people from the virus that causes Bolivian hemorrhagic fever.

Vaccines to Rift Valley fever are under development. But these are still undergoing testing and so are not publicly available. Vaccines have not been developed to the other hemorrhagic fevers. An antiviral drug called ribavirin shows potential against Lassa fever. Unfortunately, the drug has caused mutations in test animals. Thus, its use on humans carries a risk. In determining whether or not to administer ribavirin, the risk of its use is weighed against the urgency of the illness.

At the present time, the best treatments for hemorrhagic fevers are isolation of the infected patient and care when handling the patient. For example, health care workers should be dressed in protective clothing, including gloves and protective facemask. Also, any material or equipment that comes into contact with a patient should be sterilized to kill any virus that may have adhered to the items.

The devastating infection caused by the hemorrhagic viruses is remarkable given the very small amount of genetic material that the viruses contain. For example, Ebola viruses can produce less than 12 proteins . How the viruses are able to evade the host immune responses, and establish infections is unknown. The virus may commandeer the host's genetic material to produce proteins that it is unable to produce. Or, hemorrhagic viruses may be exquisitely designed infection machines, containing only the resources needed to evade the host and establish an infection. Sequencing of the genetic material of hemorrhagic viruses will help distinguish between these two possibilities.

See also Immunology; Zoonoses.


Resources

books

Specter, S.C., R.L. Hodinka, and S.A. Young. Clinical Virology, 3rd ed. Washington, DC: American Society for Microbiology Press, 2000.

Tao, H. Atlas of Hemorrhagic Fever with Renal Syndrome. Thousand Oaks, CA: Science press, 1999.

organizations

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Special Pathogens Branch, National Center for Infectious Diseases, MS A–26, 1600 Clifton Road, Atlanta, GA 30333. (404) 639-1510. February 8, 2002 [cited November 12, 2002] <http://www.cdc.gov/ncidod/dvrd/spb/mnpages/dispages/vhf.htm>.


Brian Hoyle

KEY TERMS

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Hemorrhagic

—Involving life-threatening bleeding.

Reservoir host

—The animal or organism in which the virus or parasite normally resides.

Vector

—Any agent, living or otherwise, that carries and transmits parasites and diseases.

Zoonoses

—The transmission of disease to humans from an animal.

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"Hemorrhagic Fevers and Diseases." The Gale Encyclopedia of Science. . Encyclopedia.com. 21 Aug. 2018 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"Hemorrhagic Fevers and Diseases." The Gale Encyclopedia of Science. . Encyclopedia.com. (August 21, 2018). http://www.encyclopedia.com/science/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/hemorrhagic-fevers-and-diseases-2

"Hemorrhagic Fevers and Diseases." The Gale Encyclopedia of Science. . Retrieved August 21, 2018 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/science/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/hemorrhagic-fevers-and-diseases-2

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Within the “Cite this article” tool, pick a style to see how all available information looks when formatted according to that style. Then, copy and paste the text into your bibliography or works cited list.

Because each style has its own formatting nuances that evolve over time and not all information is available for every reference entry or article, Encyclopedia.com cannot guarantee each citation it generates. Therefore, it’s best to use Encyclopedia.com citations as a starting point before checking the style against your school or publication’s requirements and the most-recent information available at these sites:

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Notes:
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