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What Is Viral Hemorrhagic Fever?

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  • Written By: Jacob Queen
  • Edited By: Lauren Fritsky
  • Last Modified Date: 04 October 2018
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A viral hemorrhagic fever is a kind of virus that generally causes internal hemorrhaging. These diseases tend to be more common in tropical environments, and particularly on the African continent. There are many different kinds of viral hemorrhagic fever and most of them are transmitted to people from animals or insects, although some can become contagious among humans as well under the right circumstances. Some of these diseases are very deadly for a variety of reasons, and there is some concern among experts that they might someday be used as biological attack weapons. Some of the better-known viral hemorrhagic fever illnesses are Ebola and Dengue fever.

There are three basic stages to the symptoms of most viral hemorrhagic fever diseases. Initially, a person may not think the symptoms reflect anything more serious than a case of the flu. For example, people usually develop a fever, some body aches, fatigue, and nausea. The symptoms may vary somewhat between all the different viruses, but they are generally pretty common for the first stage.

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Sometimes there may not be any further noticeable symptoms, but often there is a second stage where the person's organs or veins begin to leak blood. This can manifest in a lot of different ways, including bleeding from various body orifices and all the complications of serious organ failure. Eventually, there is also often a third stage where the person suffers nervous system damage, leading to seizures and other problems. Some of these illnesses can ultimately be deadly, while others are much more survivable.

The cause of viral hemorrhagic fever is usually the process of people coming into contact with animals. Generally, the most common animals that spread these illnesses are rats, but some are also spread by blood parasites like ticks. The diseases are mostly transferred through body fluid contact between people and animals, but that can sometimes happen through the air via dried feces particles. Some of these viruses can spread directly among humans, and when they do, it is generally also through body fluid contact.

Most of the time, it's not actually possible for doctors to cure viral hemorrhagic fever. This is a general issue with most viral illnesses. The body's own defenses are usually the only thing that can stop a virus, and most of the time that's all it takes. Sometimes doctors use antiviral drugs, and they might be helpful in some cases. There are also some vaccines that might be helpful to avoid certain particular strains.

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