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Overview of Arbovirus, Arenavirus, and Filovirus Infections


Thomas M. Yuill

, PhD, University of Wisconsin-Madison

Reviewed/Revised Jun 2023
Topic Resources

Arbovirus (arthropod-borne virus) is defined as any virus that is transmitted to humans and/or other vertebrates by certain species of blood-feeding arthropods, mostly insects (flies and mosquitoes) and arachnids (ticks). Arbovirus is a descriptive term based on transmission by vectors with particular characteristics. It is not part of the International Committee on Taxonomy of Viruses classification of viruses (ie, it is not a species, genus, or family), which is based on the nature and structure of the viral genome.

Families in the current classification system that have some arbovirus members include

  • Peribunyaviridae

  • Flaviviridae

  • Orthomyxoviridae (eg, thogotoviruses)

  • Sedorreoviridae (eg, orbiviruses)

  • Togaviridae (alphaviruses)

Pearls & Pitfalls

  • The term arbovirus (arthropod-borne virus) describes a virus that is transmitted by certain species of arthropods.

  • It is not a part of viral taxonomy, and members of many different viral families may be arboviruses.

Arboviruses number > 250 and are distributed worldwide; at least 80 cause human disease. Most arboviruses are transmitted by mosquitoes, but some are transmitted by ticks, and one (Oropouche virus) is transmitted by midges. Birds are often reservoirs for arboviruses, which are transmitted by mosquitoes to horses, other domestic animals, and humans. Other reservoirs for arboviruses include arthropods and vertebrates (often rodents, monkeys, and humans).

These viruses may spread to humans from nonhuman reservoirs, but most arboviral diseases are not transmissible by humans, perhaps because the typical viremia is inadequate to infect the arthropod vector. Exceptions include dengue Dengue Dengue is a mosquito-borne disease caused by a flavivirus. Dengue fever usually results in abrupt onset of high fever, headache, myalgias, arthralgias, and generalized lymphadenopathy, followed... read more , yellow fever Yellow Fever Yellow fever is a mosquito-borne flavivirus infection endemic in tropical South America and sub-Saharan Africa. Symptoms may include sudden onset of fever, relative bradycardia, headache, and... read more , Zika virus infection Zika Virus (ZV) Infections The Zika virus is a mosquito-borne flavivirus that is antigenically and structurally similar to the viruses that cause dengue, yellow fever, and West Nile virus. Zika virus infection is typically... read more , and chikungunya disease Chikungunya Disease Chikungunya disease is transmitted by the Aedes mosquito. Chikungunya disease usually presents with acute fever. Chronic polyarthritis can persist and be disabling. Diagnosis is confirmed... read more , which can be transmitted from person to person via mosquitoes. When human-to-human transmission occurs, it can be by blood transfusion, organ transplantation, sexual contact, and from mother to child during birth depending on the specific virus involved. Human-to-human transmission of most arboviruses through casual, everyday contact has not been documented.

The Filoviridae consists of 2 genera: Ebolavirus (consisting of 5 species) and Marburgvirus (consisting of 2 species). The specific vectors of these viruses have not been confirmed, but fruit bats are the prime candidates; thus, Filoviridae are not arboviruses. Human-to-human transmission of Ebola virus and Marburg virus Marburg and Ebola Virus Infections Marburg and Ebola are filoviruses that cause hemorrhage, multiple organ failure, and high mortality rates. Diagnosis is with enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay, polymerase chain reaction (PCR)... read more occurs readily.

Laboratory diagnosis often involves viral cultures, polymerase chain reaction, electron microscopy, and antigen and antibody detection methods where available.



  • Supportive care

  • Sometimes ribavirin

Treatment for most of these infections is supportive.

In hemorrhagic fevers, bleeding may require phytonadione (vitamin K1 Vitamin K Deficiency Vitamin K deficiency results from extremely inadequate intake or fat malabsorption. Risk of bleeding is increased by use of coumarin anticoagulants. Deficiency is particularly common among breastfed... read more ). Transfusion of packed red blood cells or fresh frozen plasma may also be necessary. Aspirin and other NSAIDs (nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) are contraindicated because of antiplatelet activity. For advanced cases of hantavirus cardiopulmonary syndrome, extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO) may be needed.

Antiviral treatment for other syndromes has not been adequately studied. Ribavirin has not been effective in animal models of filovirus and flavivirus infections. The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved 2 medications to treat Ebola virus disease caused by Zaire Ebola virus in adults and children: a combination of three monoclonal antibodies (atoltivimab/maftivimab/odesivimab) and a single monoclonal antibody (ansuvimab).


  • Vector control

  • Prevention of vector bites

  • Sometimes vaccination

  • Avoidance of contact with infected animals, their products, and their excrement (hantaviruses)

The abundance and diversity of arboviruses means that it is often easier and cheaper to control arbovirus infections by destroying their arthropod vectors or taking other population control measures, preventing bites, and eliminating their breeding habitats than by developing specific vaccines or drug treatments.

Vector control and bite prevention

Diseases transmitted by mosquitoes or ticks can often be prevented by the following:

  • Reduce or limit infection in vector populations

  • Wear clothing that covers as much of the body as possible

  • Use insect repellants (eg, DEET [diethyltoluamide])

  • Minimize the likelihood of exposure to the insect or tick (eg, for mosquitoes, limiting time outdoors in wet areas; for ticks, see sidebar )

There has been progress in reducing populations of Aedes aegypti mosquitoes through the release of sterile males or genetically modified males (1 Reference Arbovirus (arthropod-borne virus) is defined as any virus that is transmitted to humans and/or other vertebrates by certain species of blood-feeding arthropods, mostly insects (flies and mosquitoes)... read more ). Another approach is to limit infection among vector populations. Field trials are underway with introduction into the wild of Aedes aegypti that have been infected with Wolbachia bacteria, which blocks arbovirus midgut infection (see CDC: Mosquitoes with Wolbachia for reducing numbers of Aedes aegypti mosquitoes). These bacteria do not reduce mosquito populations. Instead, they block infection of the mosquitoes by dengue, chikungunya, and Zika viruses, thus reducing transmission of disease. The Wolbachia are transmitted to the infected mosquito's offspring, thus multiplying the effectiveness of the technique.

Diseases transmitted by rodent excreta can be prevented by the following:

  • Before cleaning, ventilate for ≥ 15 minutes closed spaces where mice have been.

  • Wet down surfaces with a 10% bleach solution before sweeping or cleaning.

  • Avoid stirring up dust.

  • Seal sites of potential rodent entry into homes and nearby buildings.

  • Prevent rodent access to food.

  • Eliminate potential nesting sites in and around the home and other buildings.

Guidelines for cleaning up after rodents and working in areas with potential rodent excreta are available from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).



  • 1. Martín-Park A, Che-Mendoza A, Contreras-Perera Y, et al: Pilot trial using mass field-releases of sterile males produced with the incompatible and sterile insect techniques as part of integrated Aedes aegypti control in Mexico. PLoS Negl Trop Dis 16(4):e0010324, 2022. Published 2022 Apr 26. doi:10.1371/journal.pntd.0010324

Drugs Mentioned In This Article

Drug Name Select Trade
Copegus, Moderiba, Rebetol, RibaPak, Ribasphere, Ribasphere RibaPak, RibaTab, Virazole
AquaMEPHYTON, Mephyton
Anacin Adult Low Strength, Aspergum, Aspir-Low, Aspirtab , Aspir-Trin , Bayer Advanced Aspirin, Bayer Aspirin, Bayer Aspirin Extra Strength, Bayer Aspirin Plus, Bayer Aspirin Regimen, Bayer Children's Aspirin, Bayer Extra Strength, Bayer Extra Strength Plus, Bayer Genuine Aspirin, Bayer Low Dose Aspirin Regimen, Bayer Womens Aspirin , BeneHealth Aspirin, Bufferin, Bufferin Extra Strength, Bufferin Low Dose, DURLAZA, Easprin , Ecotrin, Ecotrin Low Strength, Genacote, Halfprin, MiniPrin, St. Joseph Adult Low Strength, St. Joseph Aspirin, VAZALORE, Zero Order Release Aspirin, ZORprin
Coleman Insect Repellent, OFF! Deeep Woods
NOTE: This is the Professional Version. CONSUMERS: View Consumer Version
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