Viral Haemorrhagic Fevers
Viral Haemorrhagic Fevers (VHFs) is used to describe a group of contagious viral infections caused by several distinct viruses that cause vascular damage resulting in bleeding or haemorrhaging. The most familiar of these include Yellow Fever, Ebola, and Dengue.
The viruses which cause VHFs are mainly zoonotic, being transmitted from an infected or hosting insect or animal, or their urine, faeces, saliva, or other bodily fluids. Mosquitoes, ticks, rodents and bats are common carriers, although the host of some viruses is still not known.
Each VHF is usually associated with one particular species and a restricted geographical area; however, some viruses are becoming more widespread.
Some viruses can cause symptoms which are very mild, while others can be far more severe and are life-threatening. Symptoms can include fever, fatigue, dizziness, muscle aches, exhaustion, in more severe cases bleeding under the skin and haemorrhaging from the mouth, eyes or ears can also occur, and there is a risk of kidney failure and coma for some types of VHF.
Human cases or outbreaks of HVFs are typically sporadic and cannot be easily predicted. While anti-virals and a vaccine exist for some VHFs, for the majority there is no cure.
When to seek medical advice
If a person:
- has symptoms after travelling to a known affected area or having direct contact with an infected person, animal or insect, they should contact their GP for advice
- suffers bleeding or haemorrhaging, medical advice should be sought immediately
To prevent contracting VHF:
- before travelling to a known affected area, find out about the risks of VHFs, so appropriate protective measures can be taken
- avoid contact with animals or being bitten by insects that could be hosting the virus - this could include using insecticide, mosquito nets, wearing long sleeved clothing and not handling or touching any animals
- make sure fruit and vegetables are washed and peeled before eating and avoid eating a wild animal that has been killed for food (bushmeat)
- following good infection, prevention control measures can help to prevent contracting or transmitting a VHF - regular washing of hands using soap and water is essential
- contaminated items such as bedding, towels or clothing, of an infected person should not be handled without the use of appropriate PPE (such as gloves and protective plastic apron) which should be properly disposed of afterwards - any items used by the person should be thoroughly cleaned afterwards, including bathroom facilities
- if there is a need to contact a GP or other health services, make sure they know the patient has travelled to an affected area
- even if a person has been vaccinated, they should still take measures to try to prevent catching a virus
Reporting Viral Haemorrhagic Fever
The local Public Health - Health Protection Team for North and West Northamptonshire works closely with UKHSA (UK Health Security Agency). They use routine surveillance programmes to monitor the spread of infectious diseases and provide support to prevent and control infection in establishments such as hospitals, care homes and schools.
As VHF is a notifiable disease in England, it is important the health professionals inform East Midlands UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) of any cases for early identification and management of cases to prevent onward transmission of this disease.
Contact details for East Midlands UKHSA
These are not constantly monitored out of hours.
Last updated 16 October 2023