Chapter 3Infectious Diseases Related To Travel
Viral Hemorrhagic Fevers
Barbara Knust, Pierre E. Rollin
Viral hemorrhagic fevers (VHFs) are caused by several families of enveloped RNA viruses: filoviruses (Ebola and Marburg viruses), arenaviruses (Lassa fever, Lujo, Guanarito, Machupo, Junin, Sabia, and Chapare viruses), bunyaviruses (Rift Valley fever [RVF], Crimean-Congo hemorrhagic fever [CCHF], and hantaviruses), and flaviviruses (dengue, yellow fever, Omsk hemorrhagic fever, Kyasanur Forest disease, and Alkhurma viruses); see the Dengue and Yellow Fever sections in this chapter.
Some VHFs are spread person to person through direct contact with symptomatic patients, body fluids, or cadavers or through inadequate infection control in a hospital setting (filoviruses, arenaviruses, CCHF virus). Zoonotic spread may occur from contact with the following:
- Livestock via slaughter or consumption of raw meat from infected animals and, potentially, unpasteurized milk (CCHF, RVF, Alkhurma viruses)
- Bushmeat, likely via slaughter or consumption of infected animals (Ebola, Marburg viruses)
- Rodents via inhalation of or contact with materials contaminated with rodent excreta (arenaviruses, hantaviruses)
- Other reservoir species, such as bats (Ebola, Marburg viruses)
Vectorborne transmission also occurs via mosquito (RVF virus) or tick (CCHF, Omsk, Kyasanur Forest disease, Alkhurma viruses) bites or by crushing infected ticks.
The viruses that cause VHFs are distributed over much of the globe. Each virus is associated with ≥1 nonhuman host or vector species, restricting the virus and the initial contamination to the areas inhabited by these species. The diseases caused by these viruses are seen in people living in or having visited these areas. Humans are incidental hosts for these enzootic diseases; however, person-to-person transmission of some viruses can result in large human outbreaks. Specific viruses are addressed below.
Ebola and Marburg: Filoviral Diseases
Ebola and Marburg viruses cause hemorrhagic fever in humans and nonhuman primates. Five species of Ebola virus have been identified: Côte d’Ivoire, Sudan, Zaire, Bundibugyo, and Reston. Countries with confirmed human cases of Ebola hemorrhagic fever include Republic of the Congo, Côte d’Ivoire, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Gabon, Sudan, and Uganda. Ebola-Reston virus is believed to be endemic in the Philippines and potentially in neighboring countries but has not been shown to cause human disease. Countries with confirmed human cases of Marburg hemorrhagic fever include Angola, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Kenya, Uganda, and possibly Zimbabwe.
Growing evidence indicates that fruit bats are the natural reservoir for filoviruses. Outbreaks occur when a person becomes infected after exposure to the reservoir species or a secondarily infected nonhuman primate and then transmits the virus to other people in the community. Four cases of Marburg hemorrhagic fever have occurred in travelers visiting caves harboring bats, including Kitum cave in Kenya and a python cave in Maramagambo Forest, Uganda. Miners have also acquired Marburg infection from working in underground mines harboring bats in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Uganda.
Lassa Fever and Other Arenaviral Diseases
Arenaviruses are transmitted from rodents to humans, except Tacaribe virus, which was found in bats. Most infections are mild, but some result in hemorrhagic fever with high death rates. Old World (Eastern Hemisphere) and New World (Western Hemisphere) viruses cause the following diseases:
- Old World viruses: Lassa virus (Lassa fever) lymphocytic choriomeningitis virus (meningitis, encephalitis, and congenital fetal infection in normal hosts, hemorrhagic fever in organ transplant recipients). Lassa fever occurs in rural West Africa, with hyperendemic areas in Guinea, Liberia, Nigeria, and Sierra Leone. Lujo virus has been recently described in Zambia and the Republic of South Africa during a health care–associated outbreak.
- New World viruses: Junin (Argentine hemorrhagic fever), Machupo (Bolivian hemorrhagic fever), Guanarito (Venezuelan hemorrhagic fever), Sabia (Brazilian hemorrhagic fever), and the recently discovered Chapare virus (a single case in Bolivia).
Reservoir host species are Old World rats and mice (family Muridae, subfamily Murinae) and New World rats and mice (family Muridae, subfamily Sigmodontinae). These rodent types are found worldwide, including Europe, Asia, Africa, and the Americas. Virus is transmitted through inhalation of aerosols from rodent urine, ingestion of rodent-contaminated food, or direct contact of broken skin or mucosa with rodent excreta. Risk of Lassa virus infection is associated with peridomestic rodent exposure. Inappropriate food storage increases the risk for exposure. Health care–associated transmission of Lassa, Lujo, and Machupo viruses has occurred through droplet and contact. One anecdotal report of possible airborne transmission exists. Several cases of Lassa fever have been confirmed in international travelers staying in traditional dwellings in the countryside.
Rift Valley Fever and Other Bunyaviral Diseases
RVF causes fever, hemorrhage, encephalitis, and retinitis in humans, but primarily affects livestock. RVF is endemic to sub-Saharan Africa. Sporadic outbreaks have occurred in humans in Egypt, Madagascar, and Mauritania. Large epidemics occurred in Kenya, Somalia, and Tanzania in 1997–1998 and 2006–2007; Saudi Arabia and Yemen in 2000; Madagascar in 2008; and South Africa, Botswana, Namibia, and Mauritania in 2010. RVF virus is transmitted by mosquito, percutaneous inoculation, and slaughter or consumption of infected animals.
CCHF is endemic where ticks of the genus Hyalomma are found in Africa and Eurasia, including South Africa, the Balkans, the Middle East, Russia, and western China, and is highly endemic in Afghanistan, Iran, Pakistan, and Turkey. CCHF virus is transmitted to humans by infected ticks or direct handling and preparation of fresh carcasses of infected animals, usually domestic livestock. Health care–associated transmission often occurs.
Hantaviruses cause hantavirus pulmonary syndrome (HPS) and hemorrhagic fever with renal syndrome (HFRS). The viruses that cause HPS are present in the New World; those that cause HFRS occur worldwide. The viruses that cause both HPS and HFRS are transmitted to humans through contact with urine, feces, or saliva of infected rodents. Travelers staying in rodent-infested dwellings are at risk for HPS and HFRS. Human-to-human transmission has been reported only with Andes virus in Chile and Argentina.
Signs and symptoms vary by disease, but in general, patients with VHF present with abrupt onset of fever, myalgias, and prostration, followed in severe forms by coagulopathy with a petechial rash or ecchymoses and sometimes overt bleeding. Vascular endothelial damage leads to shock and pulmonary edema; liver injury is common. Signs seen with specific viruses include renal failure (HFRS); ecchymoses and bruises (CCHF); hearing loss, anasarca and shock in newborns (Lassa fever); and spontaneous abortion and birth defects (Lassa and lymphocytic choriomeningitis viruses). Because the incubation period may be as long as 21 days, patients may not develop illness until returning from travel; therefore, a thorough travel and exposure history is critical.
US-based clinicians should notify local health authorities and CDC immediately of any suspected cases of VHF occurring in patients residing in or requiring evacuation to the United States (CDC Viral Special Pathogens Branch [404-639-1115] during business hours or the CDC Emergency Operations Center [770-488-7100] after hours). CDC also provides consultation for international clinicians and health ministries. Whole blood or serum may be tested for virologic (PCR, antigen detection, virus isolation) and immunologic (IgM, IgG) evidence of infection. Tissue may be tested by immunohistochemistry, PCR, and virus isolation. Postmortem skin biopsies fixed in formalin and blood collected within a few hours after death by cardiac puncture can be used for diagnosis. Samples should be sent for testing to a reference laboratory with biosafety level 3 and 4 capability.
Ribavirin is effective for treating Lassa fever and other Old World arenaviruses, New World arenaviruses, and potentially CCHF, but it is not approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for these indications. Convalescent-phase plasma is effective in treating Argentine hemorrhagic fever. Intravenous ribavirin can be obtained for compassionate use through FDA from Valeant Pharmaceuticals (Aliso Viejo, California). Requests should be initiated by the provider through FDA (301-736-3400), with simultaneous notification to Valeant (800-548-5100, extension 5 [domestic telephone] or 949-461- 6971 [international telephone]).
The risk of acquiring VHF is low for international travelers. Travelers at increased risk for exposure include those engaging in animal research, health care workers, and others providing care for patients in the community, particularly where outbreaks of VHF are occurring.
Prevention should focus on avoiding contact with host or vector species in endemic countries. Travelers should not visit locations where an outbreak is occurring, avoid contact with rodents and bats, and avoid livestock in RVF- and CCHF-endemic areas. To prevent vectorborne disease, travelers should use insecticide-treated bed nets and wear insect repellent.
Standard precautions and contact and droplet precautions for suspected VHF case-patients are recommended to avoid transmission. Direct contact should be avoided with corpses of patients suspected of having died of Ebola, Marburg, or Old World arenavirus infection. Contact with or consumption of primates, bats, and other bushmeat should be avoided. Bat-inhabited caves or mines should be avoided. Investigational vaccines exist for Argentine hemorrhagic fever and RVF; however, neither is approved by FDA nor are they commonly available in the United States.
CDC website: www.cdc.gov/ncidod/dvrd/spb/mnpages/dispages/vhf.htm
- Bausch DG, Borchert M, Grein T, Roth C, Swanepoel R, Libande ML, et al. Risk factors for Marburg hemorrhagic fever, Democratic Republic of the Congo. Emerg Infect Dis. 2003 Dec;9(12):1531–7.
- Bausch DG, Ksiazek TG. Viral hemorrhagic fevers including hantavirus pulmonary syndrome in the Americas. Clin Lab Med. 2002 Dec;22(4):981–1020, viii.
- CDC. Imported case of Marburg hemorrhagic fever—Colorado, 2008. MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep. 2009 Dec 18;58(49):1377–81.
- Ergonul O, Holbrook MR. Crimean-Congo hemorrhagic fever. In: Guerrant RL, Walker DH, Weller PF, editors. Tropical Infectious Diseases: Principles, Pathogens and Practice. 3rd ed. Philadelphia: Saunders Elsevier; 2011. p. 466–9.
- Feldmann H, Jones SM, Schnittler HJ, Geisbert T. Therapy and prophylaxis of Ebola virus infections. Curr Opin Investig Drugs. 2005 Aug;6(8):823–30.
- Geisbert TW, Jahrling PB. Exotic emerging viral diseases: progress and challenges. Nat Med. 2004 Dec;10(12 Suppl):S110–21.
- Gunther S, Lenz O. Lassa virus. Crit Rev Clin Lab Sci. 2004;41(4):339–90.
- Heyman P, Vaheri A, Lundkvist A, Avsic-Zupanc T. Hantavirus infections in Europe: from virus carriers to a major public-health problem. Expert Rev Anti Infect Ther. 2009 Mar;7(2):205–17.
- Madani TA, Al-Mazrou YY, Al-Jeffri MH, Mishkhas AA, Al-Rabeah AM, Turkistani AM, et al. Rift Valley fever epidemic in Saudi Arabia: epidemiological, clinical, and laboratory characteristics. Clin Infect Dis. 2003 Oct 15;37(8):1084–92.
- Marty AM, Jahrling PB, Geisbert TW. Viral hemorrhagic fevers. Clin Lab Med. 2006 Jun;26(2):345–86, viii.
- Ozkurt Z, Kiki I, Erol S, Erdem F, Yilmaz N, Parlak M, et al. Crimean-Congo hemorrhagic fever in eastern Turkey: clinical features, risk factors and efficacy of ribavirin therapy. J Infect. 2006 Mar;52(3):207–15.
- Peters CJ, Jahrling PB, Khan AS. Patients infected with high-hazard viruses: scientific basis for infection control. Arch Virol Suppl. 1996;11:141–68.
- Peters CJ, Makino S, Morrill JC. Rift Valley fever. In: Guerrant RL, Walker DH, Weller PF, editors. Tropical Infectious Diseases: Principles, Pathogens and Practice. 3rd ed. Philadelphia: Saunders Elsevier; 2011. p. 462–5.
- Peters CJ, Zaki SR. Overview of viral hemorrhagic fevers. In: Guerrant RL, Walker DH, Weller PF, editors. Tropical Infectious Diseases: Principles, Pathogens and Practice. 3rd ed. Philadelphia: Saunders Elsevier; 2011. p. 441–8.
- Rollin PE, Nichol ST, Zaki S, Ksiazek TG. Arenaviruses and filoviruses. In: Versalovic J, Carroll KC, Funke G, Jorgensen JH, Landry ML, Warnock DW, editors. Manual of Clinical Microbiology. 10th ed. Washington, DC: ASM Press; 2011. p. 1514–29.
- Wahl-Jensen V, Peters CJ, Jahrling PB, Feldman H, Kuhn JH. Filovirus infections. In: Guerrant RL, Walker DH, Weller PF, editors. Tropical Infectious Diseases: Principles, Pathogens and Practice. 3rd ed. Philadelphia: Saunders Elsevier; 2011. p. 483–91.
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
1600 Clifton Rd
Atlanta, GA 30333
TTY: (888) 232-6348
- Contact CDC-INFO
- Travel Notices
- Find a Clinic
- Disease Directory
- Information Centers
- For Travelers
- Common Travel Health Topics
- Adopting a Child from Another Country
- Adventure Travel
- Bug Bites
- Business Travel
- Counterfeit Drugs
- Cruise Ship Travel
- Cold Climates
- Deep Vein Thrombosis
- Fish Poisoning in Travelers
- Food and Water
- Health Care Abroad
- High Altitudes
- Hot Climates
- Humanitarian Aid Workers
- Jet Lag
- Last-Minute Travel
- Long-Term Travel
- Mass Gatherings
- Medical Tourism
- Mental Health
- Motion Sickness
- Natural Disasters
- Pregnant Travelers
- Road Safety
- Senior Citizens
- Sex Tourism
- Sick After Travel
- Study Abroad
- Sun Exposure
- Swimming and Diving
- Travelers' Diarrhea
- Travelers with Chronic Illnesses
- Travelers with Weakened Immune Systems
- Traveling with a Disability
- Traveling with Your Pet
- Visiting Friends or Relatives
- Water Disinfection
- Infographics for Travelers
- Traveler Survival Guide
- CDC-TV Videos
- Common Travel Health Topics
- For Clinicians
- Travel Industry
- For Travelers
- Yellow Book
- Mobile Apps
- RSS Feeds
Before you travel make sure you speak with your doctor.