Friday, October 21, 2016

Viruses to watch for

Earlier this week, Scientific American published an article titled "The Next Zika."Although studies suggesting a number of emerging viruses are published all the time, virologists and medical experts chose the top four viruses they thought were going to become public health threats in the future.

1. Mayaro- This virus causes symptoms that are commonly found in patients infected with chikungunya virus (including fever, rash, and joint pain). Scientists worry that the virus will soon be able to carried by more types of mosquitos that can carry the virus to new areas, causing serious disease.

2. Rift Valley Fever- Some patients experience temporary fever, but more serious cases include excessive bleeding and brain inflammation, which can be fatal. Virologists are concerned that the virus is mutating to become more virulent, and that animals can be reservoirs for the virus.

3. Crimean-Congo Hemorrhagic Fever- This virus has an very high death rate- up to 40%. Unfortunately, it also has the capability of being carried over large distances; it's been detected in China, Turkey, India, and Spain since its discovery.

4. Usutu- This virus has been killing birds all over Europe this summer. The good news is that infection can sometimes cause no symptoms; however some immunocompromised patients experienced serious symptoms.

It's interesting to note that all of these viruses are "arbo" viruses, or arthropod-borne. With increasing globalization, its easier for virus carrying insects, such as ticks and mosquitos, to travel to new areas of the world and cause outbreaks.

There is vaccine and treatment development underway to help mitigate the effects of many emerging viruses. For Rift Valley Fever virus, there is now an animal vaccine which should prevent humans from getting the virus by coming in contact with infected livestock or wild animals. There is still a lot of progress to be made though, as Mayaro, Crimean-Congo, and other emerging viruses still don't have a human vaccine.

For now, wear your insect repellant.

-Katy Graham

Zaraska, M. "The Next Zika." Scientific American.

"Story of the Rift Valley Fever Virus Vaccine." CDC.

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