History / Origin
Known as OROV as well, the Oropouche virus is part of the orthobunyaviruses group, being the most commonly met in this group. It was first discovered in 1955, in Trinidad and Tobago, after inspecting the blood of a patient that was presenting high fever as the main symptom, but also after looking at the blood coming from a species of mosquitos. In South and Central America, especially in the subtropical and tropical areas, this virus is considered a threat to the public health and wellbeing. When the OROV virus infects a person, it will rapidly trigger a fever illness, called the Oropouche fever.
Since the virus was discovered, 500,000 infections were reported. It even managed to trigger approximately 30 epidemics of Oropouche fever between 1960 and 2009. So yes, it is a rather dangerous virus in the areas where it occurs. It was reported in Pará, Brazil, between 1960 and 1980, just to spread to different areas, like Maranhão, the Amazonas, Acre, Tocantins, Amapá, and Rondônia, until 2004.
What is the Oropouche virus?
The Oropouche virus is an arbovirus, which means that it is transmitted by insects that bite and carry the virus in their system. But, in contrast with Zika, virus transmitted by mosquitos, the Oropouche virus is transmitted among humans by small midges belonging to the Culicoidesparaensis species, which are active and can bite during the day. There are still many to be discovered about the disease caused by this virus because scientists don’t know just yet how the virus moves around in the wild and how fast it can spread to other regions. But, what it was discovered about this virus is that it isn’t picky when it comes to its host.
It can even infect other species of insects that bite, including mosquitos, as certain laboratory tests showed, although such a thing hasn’t been met in the wild just yet. Also, even if the disease can affect a high number of people in a very short period, no deaths have been reported to be caused by the Oropouche fever.
Symptoms and Treatment
The symptoms caused by the Oropouche fever are rather similar to the ones created by other arboviruses, such as the Zika, Dengue, Mayaro, and Chikungunya. Thus, the symptoms triggered by the Oropouche fever are a pain in the joints, high fever, nausea, and malaise. The symptoms after one week, which is the incubation period of the virus; this means that the after a week after a person has been bitter, and they can become rather severe and hard to endure.
Unfortunately, in the health centers and hospitals in the exposed areas, there is a lack of exact diagnosis, which can show an unrealistic number of infected people. For instance, it is very likely that there are a lot more infections with the Oropouche virus that were never reported, especially among those living in the region endemic to the Amazon. Also, it is worth noting that the virus has been found in the cerebrospinal fluid of patients that are suffering from meningitis, which made doctors connect this illness with the virus, putting it on the list of potential causes for meningitis.
Currently, there is no cure for the Oropouche virus itself, so the administered treatment targets the relief of the symptoms. Thus, a patient suffering from the illness triggered by this virus will receive medication to reduce the pain in the joints, to keep fever as low as possible, and receive fluids to keep the organism hydrated. Thus, anti-inflammatory drugs and analgesics are given orally to the patients, although aspirin should be avoided at all costs, together with other nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, due to the elevated risk of causing an internal bleeding.
The risks for the Oropouche virus to become a major health issue
If at first, this particular virus was found and acted in restricted areas, more precisely in small villages in the Amazon, now it is slowly but surely spreading to the big cities of Brazil. Considering that there is no cure for the illness caused by this virus, just a symptomatic treatment if the areal where the virus manifests expands then the risks of it to become a major health issue are quite significant.
In 2015, Brazil went through the Zika epidemic and, at the beginning of this year, the yellow fever caused a havoc in the country, both of them being transmitted by flying insects, such as mosquitos. Unfortunately, 2017 is not about to end well, because the Oropouche virus risks affecting a higher number of people than the one anticipated at first. Apparently, Oropouche found a way to survive in the busy and fast-paced environments of the cities, gradually approaching the large urban areas of Brazil.
Why is this virus so dangerous and worrying for health authorities? To start with the symptoms triggered by the virus are extremely bothering for the infected person, severely affecting the person’s ability to unroll his or her daily activities. After an average incubation period of 4 to 8 days, although the incubation can range anywhere between 3 to 12 days depending on each person’s organism, the infected person will experience high fever, joint pain, headache, myalgia, and even vomiting. As it can be observed, these symptoms are very similar to the ones triggered by dengue. But, besides the highly unpleasant symptoms, the Oropouche virus is considered to be responsible for the causing of meningitis and meningoencephalitis, which is the inflammation of the meninges and brain.
Thus, considering the way the virus spreads, doctors and representatives of health organization are afraid that the number of people that will suffer from the Oropouch virus will continue to grow. To minimize the incidence of this illness, the usage of insect screens, long clothing items, insect repellents, and keeping the doors and windows closed, is a way to avoid the contact with the insect carrying this virus.