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New mosquito-borne virus detected in Haiti


New mosquito-borne virus detected in Haiti

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FLORIDA – University of Florida (UF) researchers say have identified a patient in Haiti with a serious mosquito-borne illness that has never before been reported in the French-speaking Caribbean Community (CARICOM) country.

Known as “Mayaro virus”, it is closely related to chikungunya virus and was first isolated in Trinidad in 1954.

The symptoms of Mayaro fever are similar to those of chikungunya – fever, joint pain, muscle pain and rashes. Abdominal pain is also a feature of Mayaro fever, however, and joint pain can last longer.

Most reported cases, however, have been confined to small outbreaks in the Amazon and the researchers question whether this case signals the start of a new outbreak in the Caribbean region is currently unknown.

“While current attention has been focused on the Zika virus, the finding of yet another mosquito-borne virus which may be starting to circulate in the Caribbean is of concern,” said Dr Glenn Morris, director of the UF Emerging Pathogens Institute.

“Hopefully we will not see the same massive epidemics that we saw with chikungunya, dengue and now Zika. However, these findings underscore the fact that there are additional viruses ‘waiting in the wings’ that may pose threats in the future, and for which we need to be watching.”

The case was identified from a blood sample taken in January 2015 from an eight-year-old boy in rural Haiti. The patient had a fever and abdominal pain but no rash or conjunctivitis.

Because faculty from the UF Emerging Pathogens Institute were in the region during and after the 2014 chikungunya outbreak, plasma samples were obtained from febrile children and analysed for the presence of chikungunya virus RNA using a genetic identification technique known as reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction.

“The virus we detected is genetically different from the ones that have been described recently in Brazil, and we don’t know yet if it is unique to Haiti or if it is a recombinant strain from different types of Mayaro viruses,” said Dr John Lednicky, an associate professor in the environmental and global health department at the UF College of Public Health and Health Professions and the study’s lead author.

Earlier this week, the head of the Trinidad-based Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA), Dr James Hosepdales, predicted “with some degree of certainty” that regional countries will have a dengue type three epidemic to deal with next year.

Dr Hospedales told a Caribbean and Latin America panel discussion on regional coordination in responding to hazards and matters of security earlier that the epidemic is likely to be stronger.

“Dengue has been increasing in frequency and severity in the last 30 or so years,” he said, noting that another strain of the mosquito-borne viral infection, is set to affect the region next year mainly because of continued personal neglectful treatment of their immediate environment by regional people.

“We can predict with some degree of certainty that next year, more probably 2018, the region will have a Dengue Type Three epidemic”. (CMC)