Sunday, January 29, 2012

Ross River Fever outbreak in Australia

Okay, I just have to report on this because the symptoms are so...not what I would expect from a Togavirus.

There's been an outbreak of Ross River virus in Australia that has hit hundreds of humans! This is a mosquito-borne togavirus, and the breeding season has been prolific, especially in the southwest. (For a island nation, Australia sure suffers a lot of weird disease outbreaks).

But what's fascinating to me is that Ross River virus causes a fever that used to be known as "epidemic polyarthritis." Because it causes arthritis/arthralgia in 95% of symptomatic infections!! (also flu-like fever, of course) This can last for months in chronic infections—hooray for feeling like your fingers, wrists, back, elbows, and knees are 80 years old instead of 20. Based on Bio230 last quarter, I'd suspect that this is probably caused by immune complexes (small batches of virus tied up with antibodies) getting stuck in joints, which causes a local inflammatory response that causes joint discomfort. Ouch.

-Annelise

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