What is viral haemorrhagic fever? Health experts investigate unexplained nosebleed disease

·3-min read
Ebola is one of the most well known types of viral haemorrhagic fever. (AFP via Getty Images)
Ebola is one of the most well known types of viral haemorrhagic fever. (AFP via Getty Images)

Health experts are investigating a mysterious nosebleed disease that has killed three people so far.

There have been 13 cases recorded in the southeastern region of Lindi, Tanzania. The patients suffer from symptoms including fever, headaches, fatigue, and nosebleeds.

These symptoms would suggest that they’re suffering from viral haemorrhagic fever, like Ebola, but the patients have tested negative for both Ebola and Marburg–two viruses that have previously been found in the area.

Last week, Ghana reported Marburg cases for the first time, after two people died from the virus.

But Chief medical officer Dr Aifelo Sichalwe has urged Tanzanians to remain calm while health experts continue to investigate the disease, and people in the area that are experiencing similar symptoms have been urged to seek medical attention.

What is viral haemorrhagic fever?

Viral haemorrhagic fever (VHF) refers to a group of serious illnesses caused by particular viruses, according to the NHS. It’s a type of virus that damages the walls of small blood vessels, causing them to leak.

There are four VHFs that are of major concern because they can be transmitted directly from person to person, and have epidemic or pandemic potential. These VHFs are Lassa fever, Congo-Crimean HF, Ebola, and Marburg.

Other VHFs include Argentine HF (Junin), Bolivian HF (Machupo), Chikungunya HF, Dengue, Haemorrhagic fever with renal syndrome (Hantaan), Kyasanur Forest disease, Omsk HF, and Rift Valley disease.

VHF symptoms vary by type but often include fever, fever, fatigue, dizziness, muscle aches, loss of strength, and exhaustion. Severe cases can cause bleeding under the skin, in internal organs, or from the mouth, ears, and eyes.

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Certain VHFs can be transmitted from person to person as a result of direct contact with blood and body fluids.

The Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says that preventing VHF outbreaks is difficult because they occur “sporadically and irregularly.” It can also be more difficult to prevent an outbreak when “the animal host is unknown or challenging to control (such as rodents or ticks).”

There are limited effective vaccinations or drug treatments available for VHfs, and some are treated “only with basic medical care, which is not always adequate to prevent virus spread and save lives,” according to the CDC.

Nosebleed causes

Nosebleeds are often not caused by serious diseases.

The inside of the nose can bleed when it’s damaged, which can happen when someone picks their nose or blows their nose too hard. It can also happen when the inside of the nose is too dry.

The NHS says that bleeds from deeper inside the nose can be caused by an injury or broken nose, high blood pressure, conditions that affect the blood vessels or how the blood clots, or certain medicines, like warfarin. These nosebleeds typically need medical attention.

How to stop a nosebleed

The NHS recommends that people stop a nosebleed by sitting down and leaning forward, with their head tilted forward, pinching their nose just above their nostrils for 10 to 15 minutes, and breathing through their mouth.

However, there are certain circumstances in which people should go to A&E for a nosebleed.

These include if the nosebleed lasts longer than 15 minutes, seems excessive, they’re swallowing enough blood that makes them vomit, the bleeding started after a blow to the head, they’re feeling weak or dizzy, or having difficulty breathing.

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