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J.W. LeDuc

and Summerpal S. Kahlon


August 28, 2014: This chapter has been re-evaluated and remains up-to-date. No changes have been necessary.


Phlebovirus—description of a novel phlebovirus; Heartland virus, and the illness it causes.

Updated on 30 May 2013. The previous version of this content can be found here.
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date: 29 April 2017

Viruses of the family Bunyaviridae contain a 3-segmented, single-stranded, negative-sense RNA genome. They are divided into five genera, of which four are known to include human pathogens—Orthobunyavirus, Phlebovirus, Hantavirus, and Nairovirus. These viruses are found throughout the world and are transmitted between vertebrate hosts and to humans through the bite of infected arthropod vectors (mosquitoes, ticks, others), or from infectious excreta of rodents and other small mammals, and rarely person to person. Many are transmitted from infected arthropod vector females to the next generation by transovarial transmission, thereby surviving adverse environmental conditions and leading to marked seasonal distribution of disease. There are few vaccines available to protect against infection. Prevention is by avoidance of exposure to potentially infected arthropod and small-mammal vectors.

Clinical features

Bunyaviridae cause a wide range of clinical illnesses, ranging from self-limited febrile disease to severe, life-threatening haemorrhagic fever, acute respiratory distress, or encephalitis. The most important human diseases include those caused by:

La Crosse virus—the commonest cause of ‘California encephalitis’, most cases of which are relatively mild and with good prognosis; treatment is supportive.

Oropouche fever—causes epidemics of febrile illness, sometimes with meningitis, throughout the Amazon basin; prognosis is good; treatment is supportive.

Haemorrhagic fever with renal syndrome—caused by four distinct viruses (Hantaan, Dobrava, Puumala, Seoul); Hantaan and Dobrava cause the most severe disease, characterized sequentially by (1) febrile phase with features including headache, myalgias, petechiae and conjunctival haemorrhage, (2) hypotensive phase with shock, (3) oliguric phase, when one-third of cases have severe haemorrhage, (4) diuretic phase, (5) convalescent phase, which may be prolonged; ribavirin is effective if started early in disease. Inactivated vaccines against Hantaviruses are available for use in Asia.

Hantavirus pulmonary syndrome – most commonly reported from the western United States, Canada, Central and South America; symptoms are primarily those of acute unexplained adult respiratory distress syndrome; treatment is supportive; mortality is 20-40%.

Other diseases caused by Bunyaviridae—these include sandfly fever, Rift Valley fever, newly discovered severe fever with thrombocytopenia syndrome (China) and Crimean-Congo haemorrhagic fever. Some viruses of the family, e.g. Rift Valley fever virus and Nairobi sheep disease virus, are important pathogens of domestic animals.

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