Omsk Hemorrhagic Fever Virus

Authored by: Daniel Růžek , Michael R. Holbrook , Valeriy V. Yakimenko , Lyudmila S. Karan , Sergey E. Tkachev

Manual of Security Sensitive Microbes and Toxins

Print publication date:  April  2014
Online publication date:  April  2014

Print ISBN: 9781466553965
eBook ISBN: 9781466553989
Adobe ISBN:


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Omsk hemorrhagic fever (OHF) was first described as a new disease in 1945–1946, when physicians in the northern-lake steppe and forest-steppe areas of the Omsk oblast (an administrative unit similar to county or province) of Russia recorded sporadic cases of an acute febrile disease with abundant hemorrhagic signs (i.e., hemorrhaging from the nose, mouth, uterus, and skin and hemorrhagic rash) and leukopenia. 1,2 In 1947, an expedition including Russian scientists M.P. Chumakov, A.P. Belyayeva, A.V. Gagarina, and their coworkers arrived in the Omsk oblast to investigate this new disease and identify its causative agent and mode of transmission. During the expedition, a new virus, Omsk hemorrhagic fever virus (OHFV), was isolated from a human patient and later from a pool of Dermacentor reticulatus ticks. The D. reticulatus tick was subsequently identified as the principal arthropod vector of OHFV. 1,2 Further investigation also identified a predominant pattern of direct contact with muskrats (Ondatra zibethicus) among new cases. An increased incidence of OHF was found among muskrat hunters and their family members, who participated in muskrat skinning and preparing skins. 3 In order to capture muskrats, hunters destroy muskrat lodges with their bare hands and seize the animals. The killing of muskrats is carried out by stretching the rodent, which causes large vessels to rupture. The capture and processing of muskrat carcasses represent a high-risk activity for potential infection with OHFV by either aerosol or contact exposure.

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