University of Florida researchers have discovered another mosquito-borne virus in Haiti.
Called the Mayaro virus, researchers from UF’s Emerging Pathogens Institute said the virus is similar to chikungunya, which is commonly associated with joint pain and fever.
“There will be a rash [and] joint pains,” John Lednickey, an associate professor with UF’s Environmental and Global Health Department, said of Mayaro. “And the thing that stands out with this one, like with chikungunya fever, the joint pains can last for a long period of time.”
Some Mayaro patients report joint pains up to six months, Lednickey said, and others up to a year.
Another possible symptom is bleeding gums, he said.
Although cases of Mayaro have been known in South America, researchers believe this to be the first Caribbean case.
It has been detected in only one patient so far, so researchers and medical experts aren’t entirely sure if it’s a virus that’s previously been in Haiti or if it’s new to the region.
Because of a lack of research, little is known about the disease, including how it’s caught, cured or if possible to be transmitted from one person to another.
“We didn’t think the Zika virus could be transmitted person to person, although now we know that it can be sexually transmitted,” Lednicky said.
UF recently announced that it received a $1.7 million federal grant to study various mosquito-borne viruses in Haiti. These include Zika, chikungunya, dengue, Mayaro and any other similar viruses that may be discovered.
“There are very, very, very many viruses that are mosquito-borne,” Lednicky said, “and it’s hard to plan ahead and elect which ones to look for. Hopefully, we’ll have a strategy that will allow us to discover and reveal more of those viruses.”