Find out what you need to know about the Mayaro virus, its transmission and symptoms.
Mayaro virus is a nasty mosquito-borne virus endemic to tropical South America. Doctors and scientists have been aware of the virus for 60 years, and it has mostly been contained to humid rainforest areas in northern South America.
That was until September 2015 when the first case of the virus was reported in Haiti. Doctors have now confirmed a significant number of cases in Haiti and some experts are worried this may signal the arrival of a widespread outbreak of the virus.
Mayaro virus is a mosquito-borne pathogen of the family Togaviridae and the genus Alphavirus. It is closely related to chikungunya virus. Patients infected with Mayaro virus experience an acute dengue-like illness with symptoms such as a fever, rashes and severe joint pain that typically last three to five days, but symptoms can linger for up to a year.
Just like chikungunya and the zika viruses, jungle mosquitoes carry the Mayaro virus. It is also transmitted between primates living in jungle and rainforest areas.
However, studies have shown that the virus has adapted and urban mosquitoes can now carry the virus. Combined with the continuing encroachment of humans into jungle and rural areas, the likelihood of the disease spreading further is increased.
What are the symptoms of Mayaro virus?
- Joint pain, particularly in the large joints
- Abdominal pain and muscle pain
- Vomiting and diarrhoea
- Pain behind the eyes
While the symptoms usually last between three and five days, in some cases they can linger for up to a year.
What areas have been affected?
Although Mayaro virus was first isolated in Trinidad in 1954, sporadic outbreaks of the disease in the intervening years have been largely contained to northern South America. Reports of Mayaro virus have largely occurred in the jungles of the Amazon, with cases reported in Brazil, Bolivia and Venezuela.
However, outbreaks in South America have become increasingly common in recent years. In September 2015, an eight-year-old Haitian boy caught the illness. Since then, doctors have confirmed a significant number of cases in Haiti, prompting concerns that the virus could potentially spread further afield.
While authorities believe that the virus does not cause any serious complications, medical experts initially thought the same thing about the zika virus. With this in mind, health authorities are keen to prevent Mayaro virus spreading any further.
Further research into the disease will shed light on the potential complications to humans and how to control its spread.
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