Viral hemorrhagic fevers (VHFs) are a group of infectious diseases with similar symptoms in people; the causative viruses affect the vascular system and can produce a severe multisystemic illness in some patients. Arenaviruses known to cause VHF include Lassa virus (Lassa fever), Junin virus (Argentine hemorrhagic fever), Machupo and Chapare viruses (Bolivian hemorrhagic fever), Guanarito virus (Venezuelan hemorrhagic fever), Sabia virus and Lujo virus. Some of the causative arenaviruses have probably not been identified yet; the South American arenaviruses emerged as agents of VHF within the last 60 years, and Lujo virus was discovered in Africa in 2008.
Arenavirus-associated VHFs are zoonotic diseases, with humans acting as accidental hosts. The viruses are carried in asymptomatic animal reservoirs, typically rodents. Nonhuman primates can be experimentally infected, but there is no evidence that these viruses are pathogenic in livestock, cats or dogs. In humans, the illness may be mild to severe or fatal. Bleeding tendencies, which are not usually life-threatening, occur in a proportion of the serious cases. The mortality rate for some VHFs may be as high as 30%. VHFs can be difficult to diagnose, particularly in the early stages when treatment is most effective. There are also fears that arenaviruses could be weaponized and used in bioterrorism.
Iowa State University
Iowa State University Center for Food Security and Public Health, "Viral Hemorrhagic Fevers Caused by Arenaviruses" (2010). Center for Food Security and Public Health Technical Factsheets. 143.