We're back! I hope everyone had a good and hopefully relaxing holiday break. VINO is in the process of transitioning to a new site and importing the old blog to here, so please bear with us :D
2016 is off to quite a bang in the virology world. Several mosquito-borne viruses have made a resurgence in Latin and South America, as well as more hemorrhagic fevers re-emerging.
A mosquito-borne virus that has caused a massive spike in cases of newborn babies with microcephaly in Brazil and surrounding areas. Zika virus is a member of the Flavaviridae family, along with Dengue fever and Hepatitis C.
Another mosquito-borne virus, Chikungunya has seen a resurgence in Latin American countries over the past several months. It is an alphavirus of the Togaviridae family. It can cause joint stiffness and fever, though it is rarely fatal.
A second outbreak has been reported in Nigeria, with over 40 deaths. Lassa fever is endemic to West Africa is a cousin to Ebola, another extremely dangerous hemorrhagic fever virus.
These viruses are called vector-borne diseases, meaning that they are transmitted to humans by blood sucking arthropods (insects and spiders). You cannot catch these diseases by breathing in air particles of an infected person.
PBS posted an interesting article on why there has been such an increase in these diseases the past year, and for a reason you wouldn’t necessarily expect: El Niño. The El Niño effect causes wind currents over the Pacific Ocean to switch directions, drenching the Americas with heavier than normal rains. This can also cause migratory birds to change there migrations patterns further south than normal, and increase mosquito populations. The birds carry the diseases, which the mosquitos then bite and subsequently become infected. These infected mosquitoes then go on to bite humans and other birds, continuing the cycle.