Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Ross River Virus

G'day viral aficionados! Today, an interesting story about a species from the family Flaviviridae came to my attention via the St. Patrick's day themed ProMed HealthMap

Unfortunately our friends down under are being plagued by the ARBO transmitted Ross River Virus.

What is so bad about RRV you ask?

The Flaviviridae clinical presentation is typically rash, and fever, with a side of severe joint pain after an incubation period of 7 to 9 days. The exanthem typically presents as maculopapular, but can be vesicular or purpuric. The largest cause of morbidity by far is the arthralgia associated with infection. Normally, arthralgia due to viral infection is due to accumulations of immune complexes in the joints and associated inflammation. However, effusions of joints in RRV infected patients have not shown the presence of immune complexes, suggesting a different cause of arthralgia than immune complex mediated inflammation and pain.

RRV predominantly presents in small outbreaks along the Gold Coast of Australia, but this year, due to environmental factors like large storms and "king tides," the pesky Mozzie population has been abnormally large. There have already been over 2,835 cases of RRV reported in Brisbane Australia since the beginning of 2015, a number that is already 500 larger than last year's reported incident cases.
Great Picture of the Brisbane City Council Officers Doing Vector Control Down Under
Because of the ARBO route of transmission, Australian public health officials have been focussing a lot of energy on vector control. Interestingly, a vaccine has been developed against the viral disease. Dr. John Asakov, Professor of Virology at Queensland University, has developed an effective vaccine against RRV with the company Baxter Biosciences.

However, the vaccine has not been produced by the Australian government due to problems with economic viability. Directly opposing this statement, Dr. John Asakov believes this is a matter of poor resource allocation, stating that the government of Australia is spending 20 million dollars alone diagnosing the illness. It seems that vaccination against RRV may be a viable method to reduce incident infections in endemic areas along the Gold Coast of Australia and the Sunshine Coast too.

Hopefully the public health department, virologists, and entomologists can come up with a solution to this Flavi induced problem. Until that happens, there may be more cranky, febrile, and sick Australians in what has now become the largest outbreak of RRV in 20 years.

- Marcus Munoz

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