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Rare mosquito vector disease found in Haiti

The new Caribbean disease is called “Mayaro virus.” Genetically the virus is closely related to chikungunya virus. The virus was first isolated in Trinidad back in 1954. The virus is rare, with the only previously recorded cases being in the Amazon. It is thought the detection of the virus in Haiti is the first case in the Caribbean (or at least the first medically reported incident). The concern is whether this could be the start of a new outbreak.

The virus was found following a blood sample being taken from an 8-year-old boy who lived in rural Haiti. The symptoms exhibited by the boy included fever and abdominal pain but without any associated no rash or conjunctivitis.

Laboratory tests to identify the virus were performed, using the reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction method. Initially it was thought the disease was chikungunya virus. Further study, however, revealed the virus to be Mayaro. The causative virus, abbreviated MAYV, is in the family Togaviridae, and genus Alphavirus.

In terms of symptoms, a key distinction is that the effects of Mayaro fever, while similar to chikungunya, last for longer.

The detection of the virus, according to the lead researcher Dr. Glenn Morris, highlights the risks posed by many viruses around the world and the overall lack of research that goes into them. As the medic explains in a research note “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.”

He also added, foretelling: “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.”

As to what the detection of the virus means is uncertain. The concern is that it could be the trigger of an epidemic similar to those previously associated with chikungunya, dengue and Zika.”

The study into the Haiti isolated virus have been published in the journal Emerging Infectious Diseases. The research paper is titled “Mayaro Virus in Child with Acute Febrile Illness, Haiti, 2015.”

Written By

Dr. Tim Sandle is Digital Journal's Editor-at-Large for science news. Tim specializes in science, technology, environmental, and health journalism. He is additionally a practising microbiologist; and an author. He is also interested in history, politics and current affairs.

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