New mosquito-borne Mayaro virus detected in the Caribbean

There is a new mosquito-borne illness in Haiti.

Infectious disease specialists at the University of Florida say they have confirmed the existence of the Mayaro virus in a patient in Haiti. The virus is closely related to the chikungunya virus but researchers say they do not yet know if it’s caused by the same Aedes aegypti mosquito that’s been linked to chikungunya and the Zika virus.

“We are not sure,” said Dr. John Lednicky, a University of Florida associate professor in the environmental and global health department of the College of Public Health and Health Professions. “Many different mosquitoes can carry the same virus.”

Lednicky, who runs UF’s laboratory in Haiti, said the Mayaro virus first was found in Trinidad and Tobago in 1954, and has been causing outbreaks in South America, mainly in the Amazon. It causes similar symptoms to chikungunya: fever, joint and muscle pain, rashes and abdominal pain.

“One can say it’s as bad as chikungunya, but there is so little information available,” he said. “Maybe it’s been in Haiti this whole time and no one checked for it.”

Whether the confirmed case signals the start of a new outbreak in the Caribbean region, researchers do not know, Lednicky said. Nor do they know if the virus is going to be widespread in Haiti where the Zika virus has been difficult to track because of the country’s weak health system. (Miami Herald)

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