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Evidence shows human transmission in a deadly 2004 outbreak of a mysterious disease (Chapare virus) in Bolivia

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  • Evidence shows human transmission in a deadly 2004 outbreak of a mysterious disease (Chapare virus) in Bolivia


    News Release 16-Nov-2020
    Evidence shows human transmission in deadly outbreak of mysterious disease in Bolivia
    At TropMed2020, scientists describe rush to gauge risks of Chapare virus, an emerging hemorrhagic fever seen previously in only one patient
    American Society of Tropical Medicine & Hygiene

    Research News

    Arlington, Va. (November 16, 2020) - Researchers have discovered that a deadly virus found in Bolivia can spread from person to person in healthcare settings, raising potential concerns of additional outbreaks in the future, according to new findings presented today at the annual meeting of the American Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene (ASTMH). The research also provides preliminary evidence regarding the species of rodent that carries the virus and may spread it to people or to other animals that can infect humans.

    Researchers from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) laid out new clues to the many mysteries surrounding the Chapare virus, which caused at least five infections near Bolivia's capital city, La Paz, in 2019--three of them fatal. Prior to that, the only record of the disease was a small cluster and a single confirmed case in 2004 in Bolivia's Chapare Province, about 370 miles east of La Paz. The recent outbreak surprised health authorities, since initially all they knew was that it was a hemorrhagic fever that produced symptoms similar to diseases such as Ebola. It sparked a rapid mobilization of infectious disease experts from Bolivia's Ministry of Health, the CDC and the Pan-American Health Organization (PAHO) to explore the origins of the disease, including securing samples from patients and developing a new diagnostic test.

    "Our work confirmed that a young medical resident, an ambulance medic and a gastroenterologist all contracted the virus after encounters with infected patients--and two of these healthcare workers later died," said Caitlin Cossaboom, DVM, PhD, MPH, an epidemiologist with the CDC's Division of High-Consequence Pathogens and Pathology. "We now believe many bodily fluids can potentially carry the virus."

    Cossaboom said the confirmation of human-to-human transmission shows healthcare providers and anyone else dealing with suspected cases must take extreme care to avoid contact with items that may be contaminated with blood, urine, saliva or semen. For example, there is evidence that the medical resident who died from the disease may have been infected while suctioning saliva from a patient. The ambulance medic who was infected, but survived, was likely infected when he resuscitated the same medical resident as she was being transported to the hospital after she fell ill. Researchers also detected viral RNA in the semen of one survivor 168 days after infection, which also raises the possibility of sexual transmission. Further investigation is necessary to learn about other potential routes of transmission.

    Chapare belongs to a group of viruses called arenaviruses...