Hemorrhagic Fever – Causes, Symptoms & Treatment

Hemorrhagic fever

Hemorrhagic fever is a very dangerous human disease that occurs mostly in subtropical to tropical areas . Nevertheless, even in Germany there is no protection against the disease, for which there are very few treatment methods.

What is hemorrhagic fever?

Hemorrhagic fever is an infectious febrile disease caused by viruses. That is why one often speaks of viral hemorrhagic fever, in short: VHF.

However, hemorrhagic fever is just the generic term as there are many different types of the condition. Accordingly, there are also specific treatment methods and vaccinations against the individual infections. If someone is infected with a form of hemorrhagic fever, they are more prone to bleeding.

In Germany, infection with this fever is extremely rare. However, it can happen that travelers contract hemorrhagic fever during their stay abroad and thus bring the disease with them to Germany. For these cases, there are also special isolation wards in several German hospitals.


The causes of hemorrhagic fever are special viruses that can be found in large numbers, especially in tropical and subtropical regions such as Africa, South America and Southeast Asia.Because there are different types of viruses, the occurrence of a particular type also varies from region to region. In general, the pathogens are also often referred to as zoonoses , since they mainly come from monkeys, domestic animals and rodents and are transmitted to humans by mosquitoes and ticks.

However, special types of hemorrhagic fever are also transmitted through contact between two people. This occurs, for example, through blood contact, bodily excretions or a droplet infection . It usually takes up to a week for hemorrhagic fever to become noticeable and break out.

Symptoms, Ailments & Signs

Hemorrhagic fever is often manifested by high fever , bleeding and kidney dysfunction. In the first few days after infection, muscle pain and body aches also set in , often accompanied by cramps and paralysis. Some people have blood in their urine or stools.

Depending on the type of fever, other symptoms and symptoms may occur. In the classic form of hemorrhagic fever, for example, increasing exhaustion can occur. Patients feel extremely tired and can hardly get out of bed. When you get up, you get heart palpitations , dizziness and profuse sweating.

In severe cases, rapid movements can lead to impaired consciousness and even circulatory shock . One of the main symptoms of the disease is edema. These can form anywhere on the body and usually cause severe pain. There is also an increased risk of bleeding, infection and the formation of scars .

If hemorrhagic fever is not treated adequately, deficiency symptoms can occur. The fever usually comes on relatively suddenly and can last for one to two weeks before slowly disappearing. The symptoms mentioned can occur in varying degrees of intensity during this period.

Diagnosis & History

Haemorrhagic fever is often manifested by high fever, kidney dysfunction or edema . The latter are also referred to as tissue dropsy. Many infections cause internal bleeding, tissue bleeding in the form of bruises, and bleeding in the stool and urine.

However, these are just a handful of symptoms of the different types of febrile illness. Depending on the species, however, the appearance of symptoms varies. Therefore, a disease of hemorrhagic fever is extremely difficult to identify.

For a clear diagnosis, a so-called virological diagnosis is required. However, this often proves to be very difficult, since dealing with the pathogens requires a high level of safety. Not every German clinic is able to carry out such an examination.


There are usually very few treatment options for this fever. For this reason, the fever is dangerous for humans and, in the worst case, can even lead to the death of the patient. The symptoms are very similar to an ordinary fever. An elevated temperature occurs and the affected person feels sick and tired.In most cases, there is also common aches and pains in the limbs and muscles, so that the person’s movement is restricted by the disease. There is also bloody urine and bowel movements, which leads to a panic attack in many people. Paralysis and cramps can also occur in different parts of the body and thus reduce the quality of life.

Treating the fever will not lead to complications if done early. Medicines are used for this. Complications can occur if treatment is delayed and irreversible damage has already occurred. Furthermore, the person concerned can also be vaccinated against certain fever diseases in order to prevent them. Life expectancy is only reduced if treatment is given too late.

When should you go to the doctor?

People who develop a fever after traveling to a tropical or subtropical country should consult their family doctor immediately. Symptoms such as severe fever, exhaustion and muscle or body aches indicate infection with zoonoses, which must be clarified and treated immediately. At the latest when further warning signs such as bleeding, cramps or blood in the urine and stool are noticed, medical advice is required. Symptoms need investigation when they appear suddenly and increase in intensity over a few hours to days.

In the case of severe physical discomfort, the person concerned is best taken to a hospital. In the event of a circulatory shock or signs of paralysis, the emergency services should be called. Accompanying this, first aid measures may have to be provided. The patient then has to spend a few days in the hospital, where the hemorrhagic fever is diagnosed and treated. Further visits to the doctor are necessary if there is a suspicion that the virus has been spread or if side effects or interactions occur during follow-up care using medication.

Treatment & Therapy

There are hardly any medication-based treatments for most types of hemorrhagic fever . For many species, however, taking the antiviral ribavirin is recommended. However, this does not allow for a 100% cure of the infection, it only ensures that the pathogens do not multiply any further.

There are even vaccines against some types of hemorrhagic fever, such as yellow fever . There is also a vaccine against the Argentinian form of the fever infection, the so-called Junin virus. However, the use of this vaccine is currently extremely controversial in all countries of the world, with the exception of Argentina itself, and is therefore not used there.

Other vaccines are still being developed and tested on animals. This is already taking too long for many people, since hemorrhagic fever is very dangerous. Infection with any of the types of this disease can even be life-threatening.

If an infected person falls ill with a form of hemorrhagic fever that can be transmitted from person to person, isolation or even quarantine in a clinic specially designed for this is the top priority. In addition, according to the Infection Protection Act, hemorrhagic fever must be reported immediately in any case.


There are only a few vaccines against hemorrhagic fever . Therefore, it is very important that you take some precautionary measures yourself. An insect repellent is extremely useful. This prevents mosquitoes from being able to transmit the infection to humans. In addition, the most important basic hygiene rules should also be observed in any case in order to protect yourself adequately against infection with hemorrhagic fever.


Follow-up care after treatment or after surviving haemorrhagic fever depends on the type of consequential damage and symptoms. In almost all cases, for example, a long observation period in the hospital is necessary, even after the most severe symptoms have subsided. The patients, who are then very weak, are sometimes fed artificially or with bland food. Infusion-based nutrition may also be a better option. If the kidneys are also severely damaged, dialysis may be necessary.

In most cases, the patients also remain in quarantine for the time being until it is certain that the viral causative agent of hemorrhagic fever can no longer be detected. Overall, follow-up care for hemorrhagic fever is usually characterized by a long phase of bed rest. The weakened body of the person concerned is also gradually rebuilt.

Stress and nutrition must be gradually reintroduced. Blood and fluid loss must be compensated for even after treatment. Those affected must also be examined after the bleeding and fever have survived in order to find any organ or brain damage. Some sufferers, however, recover quickly and no follow-up examinations or measures are necessary. However, this is the exception.

You can do that yourself

Anyone suffering from hemorrhagic fever can resort to various medications. However, conservative therapy does not promise a safe cure, which is why self-help measures should always be used to treat the infectious disease.First of all, the classic fever remedies such as rest and bed rest , drinking a lot and cooling pads help. A careful diet and regular home visits by the doctor are just as essential to get fit again quickly and to avoid complications. Since hemorrhagic fever is significantly more dangerous than normal flu fever, the patient must be monitored constantly. If serious complications such as cramps, paralysis or circulatory shock occur, it is best to call the emergency services .

Relatives can support the patient during his stay in the clinic and prepare what is necessary for the time after the treatment at home. In addition, it should be ensured that the infectious disease is reported, because hemorrhagic fever is notifiable. To be on the safe side, people who have had close contact with the sick person should have themselves tested. The doctor in charge can answer what other measures can be taken to promote recovery.

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Hello! I am Lisa Newlon, and I am a medical writer and researcher with over 10 years of experience in the healthcare industry. I have a Master’s degree in Medicine, and my deep understanding of medical terminology, practices, and procedures has made me a trusted source of information in the medical world.