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Hemorrhagic Fevers

Medically reviewed by Last updated on Mar 5, 2023.


Hemorrhagic fevers (HFs)

are illnesses that are caused by groups of viruses. HFs are also called viral hemorrhagic fevers. HFs include the Ebola and Marburg viruses, yellow fever, dengue hemorrhagic fever, and Crimean-Congo hemorrhagic fever. The viruses are commonly found in rats, mice, and other field rodents. The viruses can also be found in carriers such as mosquitoes and ticks. The viruses leading to HFs can be found anywhere in the world where these animals and carriers live. HFs may cause mild illness, but they may also cause life-threatening illness.

Common symptoms include the following:

Your symptoms may begin a couple days to a week or more after you have been infected.

  • Common signs and symptoms:
    • Fever or shaking chills
    • Diarrhea, nausea, vomiting, stomach pain, or loss of appetite
    • Headache or dizziness
    • Muscle and joint aches
    • Pain behind your eyes, or swollen, red eyes
    • Sore throat with or without white or yellow spots on your tonsils
    • Fatigue and weakness
  • More serious signs and symptoms:
    • Bleeding from a body opening, such as your eyes, ears, nose, mouth, or rectum
    • Bleeding gums or signs of bleeding under your skin, such as bruises or red or purple dots
    • Chest pain or trouble breathing
    • Confusion, shaking, or seizures
    • Jaundice (yellowing of the skin or whites of the eyes)
    • Urinating very little or not at all

Call your local emergency number (911 in the US) if:

  • You have chest pain or trouble breathing.
  • You feel very confused, shaky, and tired, or you have a seizure.

Seek immediate care if:

  • You are unable to urinate, or you urinate more or less than usual for you.
  • You have new or increased bleeding from your ears, nose, mouth, eyes, or rectum.
  • You have new or increased blood in your vomit, urine, or bowel movements.
  • You have new or increased bruising or red or purple dots on your skin.
  • Your heart is beating faster than is normal for you.
  • Your skin is cold and you feel very restless.
  • Your skin or the whites of your eyes turn yellow, or your abdomen is swollen and hard.

Call your doctor if:

  • You feel dizzy and weak, or you have fainted.
  • You have a fever that is not getting better or gets higher, and shaking chills.
  • You have a severe headache.
  • You have blisters or yellow or white spots in your throat.
  • You have new or increased abdominal pain, vomiting, or diarrhea.
  • You have questions or concerns about your condition or care.


  • Antiviral medicine may be given to fight the virus causing your HF.
  • Take your medicine as directed. Contact your healthcare provider if you think your medicine is not helping or if you have side effects. Tell your provider if you are allergic to any medicine. Keep a list of the medicines, vitamins, and herbs you take. Include the amounts, and when and why you take them. Bring the list or the pill bottles to follow-up visits. Carry your medicine list with you in case of an emergency.

Ways to decrease your risk for an HF:

  • Avoid contact with infected animals and insects. Examples are mosquitoes, ticks, and rodents. Protect yourself from insect bites by wearing protective clothing, insect repellant, and using bed nets. Make sure your windows have screens to keep insects out. Wear protective gloves if you are in contact with rodent droppings (urine or feces) or rodent nests.
  • Avoid contact with an infected person. Also avoid close contact with the person's body fluids. If you are caring for someone with an HF, wear protective clothing. You will need to clean all objects used to care for the infected person as directed by a healthcare provider.
  • Get vaccinated. Get vaccinated against yellow fever if you will be traveling to areas where mosquitoes carry yellow fever. The yellow fever vaccine does not protect you for your entire life. Ask your healthcare provider for more information about vaccines against HFs.
  • Use caution when you travel. Avoid traveling to areas where there is a high number of HF infections.

Protect those around you when you have an HF:

Give your healthcare provider a list of all your close contacts. This includes family, friends, and coworkers. Any person you have had contact with will need to be seen by a healthcare provider. Each person should be checked for signs and symptoms of an HF.


  • Drink liquids as directed. Ask your healthcare provider how much liquid to drink each day and which liquids are best for you.
  • Stop breastfeeding when you have an HF. Tell your healthcare provider if you are currently breastfeeding your child. You may need to stop breastfeeding while you have an HF. You may pass the HF infection to your child through your breast milk.

Follow up with your doctor as directed:

Write down your questions so you remember to ask them during your visits.

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The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

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