New mosquito illness found in Caribbean
Researchers at the University of Florida (UF) have identified a patient in Haiti with a serious mosquito-borne illness that has never before been reported in the country.
Known as “Mayaro virus,” it is closely related to chikungunya virus and was first isolated in Trinidad and Tobago 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, most reported cases, 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.
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 analyzed 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.
Last 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.