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Mayaro Virus Reported in Haiti

NOV 04, 2016 | NICOLA M. PARRY, BVSC, MRCVS, MSC, DIPACVP, ELS
A case of illness due to the mosquito-borne Mayaro virus has been reported in Haiti for the first time, a recent study shows.
 
John Lednicky, PhD, from the University of Florida, Gainesville, and colleagues, described the case in the Emerging Infectious Diseases journal, published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Atlanta, Georgia.
 
“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,” Dr. Lednicky explained, in a University of Florida news report.
 
Since Mayaro virus was first detected, in Trinidad in 1954, sporadic outbreaks of illness due to the virus have typically been restricted to the Amazon forest region in northern South America. However, these outbreaks seem to be increasing, and the virus may also be adapting to different environments. For example, whereas only one case of Mayaro virus illness was reported in Brazil in 2014, in the state of Goiás, about 70 cases were detected there the next year—including in urban areas.
 
In addition, although Mayaro virus has previously been identified in South America, Dr. Lednicky and colleagues believe this case in Haiti to be the first in the Caribbean region.
 
The case in Haiti involved an 8-year-old boy with a history of fever and abdominal pain. A physician suspected that the boy had typhoid and treated him with antibiotics. However, a blood sample was collected from the boy and was later submitted to the University of Florida researchers who had protocols in place in Haiti for collection of diagnostic blood samples from children examined at school clinics with acute undifferentiated febrile illness. The researchers were analyzing samples to detect chikungunya, dengue, and Zika viruses, in particular.
 
The researchers detected dengue virus in the blood sample from the boy, as well as another virus, which they later identified as Mayaro virus.
 
Dengue virus is endemic in the Caribbean region. Combined with the more recent emergence of two other arboviruses—chikungunya virus and Zika virus—in the area, this has brought much attention to the study of arboviruses.
 
Dr. Lednicky and colleagues suspect that Mayaro virus illness may be underdiagnosed because it causes symptoms that are very similar to those associated with chikungunya virus and Zika virus; these symptoms include fever, joint pain, and rash.
 
“We do not know if Mayaro virus has epidemic potential,” the authors write. “[H]owever, in light of recent observations with chikungunya virus, dengue virus, and Zika virus and the potential for transmission of Mayaro virus by Aedes and Haemagogus spp. mosquitoes, inclusion of Mayaro virus in studies of arbovirus transmission seems to be indicated,” the authors concluded. 
 
Dr. Parry graduated from the University of Liverpool, England in 1997 and is a board-certified veterinary pathologist. After 13 years working in academia, she founded Midwest Veterinary Pathology, LLC where she now works as a private consultant. She is passionate about veterinary education and serves on the Indiana Veterinary Medical Association’s Continuing Education Committee. She regularly writes continuing education articles for veterinary organizations and journals, and has also served on the American College of Veterinary Pathologists’ Examination Committee and Education Committee. 
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