Keystone Virus: The New Mosquito Virus

What is the deadliest animal to mankind? A snake, lion, kissing bug or perhaps an elephant? I’m sorry to disappoint you if you consider these creatures dangerous because the deadliest animal on the planet is still the mosquito.

They say numbers don’t lie, so here is one for you. According to the report by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC), malaria alone kills over one million people in the world annually. Add this number to that of those who have succumbed to other mosquito-borne diseases such as dengue, Zika, chikungunya, and elephantiasis, and then tell me another animal that causes the deaths of as many people in just one year. But while medics and researchers work to find a lasting solution to these problems caused by mosquito bites, a new mosquito-borne disease has surfaced.

The researchers at the University of Florida have found Keystone virus in a 16-year old boy, making it the first human case in history. The teen is reported to have had multiple pesky bites from the bloodthirsty insect on August 2016 while attending a band camp in North Central Florida.

All the three tests conducted on the blood withdrawn from the student’s tissue were negative. The tests included Zika, since back then there was an outbreak, Chikungunya, and Dengue viruses. But then it tested positive for the Keystone virus.

About the Virus

Until this discovery, the virus was thought only to be transmitted to animals. It was first discovered 50 years ago in mosquitoes in Keystone, Florida, hence its nickname. Scientists and their ilk call it orthobunyavirus.

The virus is spread by Aedes atlanticus mosquito common in Florida. The mosquito is similar to Aedes aegypti known to be a transfer agent of Dengue, Zika, and Chikungunya viruses.

It had been reported in animals such as squirrels, white-tailed deer, and raccoons that inhabit the coastal areas from Texas to the Chesapeake Bay.

But although this may be the first case when the virus has been found in humans, it may not be the first case of infection. Humans have been exposed to this virus for a while now, but no sickness has previously been blamed on it. The blood of the people who inhabit the area where the virus is considered to be prevalent had been found to have antibodies against the virus. But with this new revelation, there’s officially a new mosquito virus in town that we have to fret.

Symptoms and Treatment

There are no known specific symptoms attributed to the disease caused by the virus. The condition doesn’t even have a name yet. And the information on the condition is scanty.

But the teen boy, the first patient of the condition, had the following symptoms:

  • Low-grade fever
  • A red, un-itchy rash that begun on his chest and slowly spread to his face, arm, abdomen, and back
  • And fatigue

When orthobunyavirus was grown in the brain of mice, Emerging Pathogens Institute found that the virus could reproduce in the neurological tissue. The boy, however, did not show any neurological symptoms.

One thing is clear though, the new condition is life-threatening.

Why it Should it Concern You

There has been a dramatic rise in the rate of infections of Dengue and Yellow fever, Malaria and West Nile virus (all mosquito born diseases), which is why orthobunyavirus should be a concern as well. Mosquitoes, albeit seasonally, are found in nearly every part of the world, so the chance of getting infected by one of the diseases they carry is high.

There has been a blanket assumption that the California group viruses are responsible for inflammation of the brain tissue. Nevertheless, no specific virus has been held liable. Also, 60% of these cases are unexplained. But given that the virus has been discovered here in North America, where it is prevalent in animals, but now has been found in a human, most likely there are many people who have this condition. They just aren’t symptomatic or don’t realize it.

Last but not least, since it’s mosquito season and it’s challenging to escape the poisonous bite of the mosquito that bores this virus is most active at dusk and dawn. But there are things you can do to successfully avoid mosquito bites.

Can’t Fight the Virus, Fight the Bite

Sadly it is yet to be established on how to treat the condition caused by the Keystone virus. So currently doctors fight it by treating the symptoms. But when it comes to preventing getting the Keystone virus in the first place we have to fight the way it infects humans aka fight the bite.

According to the World Health Organization, mosquitoes draw their strength from their ability to multiply. At peak breeding season, only termites and ants outnumber them. So they require a drastic response.

There are multiple approaches to do this, and the most effective methods are focused on killing them and preventing any further breeding. Like dumping and draining all standing water in your area that serves as breeding grounds for mosquitoes. Trimming your lawn and bushes. And using mosquito foggers to prevent mosquitoes from coming into your outdoor area in the first place.

Additional methods to escape the bite include using insect repellent, sleeping under treated mosquito nets, wearing loose-fitting and long-sleeved clothing when outside and employing insect screens in vents, dormers, and windows of your house.

Parting Shot

Perhaps you don’t frown at the site of mosquitoes as you do at the site of other deadly animals but mosquitoes remain the deadliest animal to the human race. They are the carriers of many downright lethal diseases. And now they have another unpleasant surprise for us in the form of a new mosquito-borne disease that can be transmitted to humans.

And while there is no simple test to identify the new virus in humans, its discovery is a step in the right direction. Many scientists are already searching for ways to identify and treat the Keystone virus. And since there are people who have antibodies of the virus in their bodies, its vaccine, or antiviral treatment will be here soon. So all we have to do is protect ourselves from mosquitoes until that happens, and let science do its thing.

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