Viral hemorrhagic fevers

Viral hemorrhagic (hem-uh-RAJ-ik) fevers are infectious diseases that interfere with the blood's ability to clot. These diseases can also damage the walls of tiny blood vessels, making them leaky. The internal bleeding that results can range from relatively minor to life-threatening.

Some viral hemorrhagic fevers include:

  • Dengue
  • Ebola
  • Lassa
  • Marburg
  • Yellow fever

These diseases most commonly occur in tropical areas of the world. When viral hemorrhagic fevers occur in the United States, they're usually found in people who've recently traveled internationally.

Viral hemorrhagic fevers are spread by contact with infected animals, people or insects. No current treatment can cure viral hemorrhagic fevers, and immunizations exist for only a few types. Until additional vaccines are developed, the best approach is prevention.

Symptoms Causes Risk factors Complications Prevention

Signs and symptoms of viral hemorrhagic fevers vary by disease. In general, initial symptoms may include:

  • High fever
  • Fatigue
  • Dizziness
  • Muscle, bone or joint aches
  • Weakness

Symptoms can become life-threatening

Severe cases of some types of viral hemorrhagic fevers may cause bleeding, but people rarely die of blood loss. Bleeding may occur:

  • Under the skin
  • In internal organs
  • From the mouth, eyes or ears

Other signs and symptoms of severe infections can include:

  • Shock
  • Nervous system malfunctions
  • Coma
  • Delirium
  • Kidney failure
  • Liver failure

When to see a doctor

The best time to see a doctor is before you travel to a developing country to ensure you've received any available vaccinations and pre-travel advice for staying healthy.

If you develop signs and symptoms once you return home, consult a doctor, preferably one who focuses on international medicine or infectious diseases. A specialist may be able to recognize and treat your illness faster. Be sure to let your doctor know what areas you've visited.

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