Viral Hemorrhagic Fevers

Saskia Popescu, PhD, MPH, MA, CIC Assistant Professor, George Mason University, Biodefense Program, Schar School of Policy and Government; Adjunct Professor, Epidemiology and Statistics, University of Arizona
Revised Publication:
November 3, 2022
Original Publication:
October 16, 2016
Declarations of Conflicts of Interest:
  • Saskia Popescu reports no conflicts of interest


Viral hemorrhagic fevers (VHFs) such as the Ebola, Marburg, Lassa, and Hantavirus are internationally notorious for high mortality rates; sporadic but extremely impactful outbreaks; and global health security concerns regarding the potential for the weaponization of the viruses. Thus, these diseases represent a significant challenge to infection prevention and control efforts not only in the areas where they are endemic but also globally. VHFs are caused by a variety of RNA viruses from four families: Arenaviridae, Bunyaviridae, Filoviridae, and Flaviviridae. Infections may involve severe, often life-threatening effects to multiple systems, including vascular damage and impaired capacity of the body to regulate itself. However, clinical manifestations vary between specific types of VHF and among patients. Infection is often characterized by nonspecific signs and symptoms, which can range from mild to severe, and identification of the infection-causing virus may involve assessing the patient’s recent travel or exposure history. Treatment and vaccination options are limited, and the risk of healthcare-associated transmission via blood and body fluids must be managed through enhanced isolation precautions and specialized personal protective equipment.