Discovered a few years ago, a deadly human virus – Chapare hemorrhagic fever – turned out to be more insidious than initially thought. Previously, it was believed that only animals can act as carriers of the disease. But as scientists have found out, the virus can be transmitted directly from person to person. This was announced at a conference of the American Society for Tropical Medicine and Hygiene (ASTMH).
The virus has already triggered at least five outbreaks near Bolivia’s capital La Paz in 2019 – three of which have been fatal.
Prior to this, the only reported case of the disease was a confirmed case in 2004 in the province of Chapare, about 370 miles east of La Paz. During an outbreak of hemorrhagic fever of unknown origin, doctors managed to isolate a new virus from the body of the only deceased. Scientists have assigned it to the arenavirus family, which also includes the Lassa virus, which kills thousands of people in West Africa every year, and the Machupo virus, which caused outbreaks of severe Bolivian hemorrhagic fever in the mid-20th century.
Chapare hemorrhagic fever is an acute febrile illness of viral aetiology. The virus that causes it is named after the local river Chapare, near which it was discovered.
Scientists attributed the pathogen to the arenavirus family (a family of RNA-containing viruses, viruses of the tropics, with a mortality rate of more than 20% after infection).
The “reservoirs” of these viruses in nature are rodents, which transmit the disease to humans.
As studies have shown, cases of transmission of fever from person to person have recently begun to be noted. According to scientists, the pathogen can be transmitted directly through contact with patient fluids.
The infection causes hemorrhagic fever and symptoms similar to Ebola – fever, severe headache, and abdominal discomfort, rash, and bleeding gums. Internal bleeding may also develop.
The situation is complicated by the fact that there is no specific therapy for treating the disease. Doctors use intravenous fluids and supportive care.
According to virologists, active outbreaks of the Chapare virus are not expected in 2020, but there are reasons for concern. Three out of five confirmed patients diagnosed with the Chapare virus in 2019 were health workers, according to a statement from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). A resident physician, an ambulance doctor and a gastroenterologist became infected after exposure to fluids from infected patients.
Scientists also note that the Chapare virus is transmitted from person to person through direct contact. This makes it less contagious and more controllable than airborne viruses, one of which is SARS-CoV-2.