Monday, February 7, 2011

Ross River virus (RRV) and Barmah Forest virus (BFV)

In South Australia there has been a sharp increase in the number of cases of Ross River virus (RRV) and Barmah Forest virus (BFV). RRV is a positive sense, single stranded, RNA virus in the family Togaviridae. It’s endemic to Australia, Papua New Guinea, and other regions of the South Pacific. While the disease has not yet shown to be fatal, it is both debilitating and quite promiscuous. Barmah forest virus, similarly, is a positive sense, single-stranded RNA virus in the family Togaviridae. It is more specifically endemic to northern Victoria, Australia, but has been spreading across more regions as of late. BFV and RRV are both insect born diseases with almost indistinguishable symptoms. Chief complains include joint pain, fatigue, malaise, and muscular pain, while signs include: rash and fever.

While the viruses cause relatively mild diseases, the increased incidence of the viruses, and the increasing area affected has Public Health officers concerned. They believe the cause of both the spread and increased incidence of disease to be the rapidly rising water level of the Murray River. The mostly stagnant water provides the perfect breeding ground for mosquitoes and gives rise to a whole host of ARBO transmitted diseases.

Furthermore, in the studied cases of infection, health officials found some more severe cases than usual, causing illness for several months. Perhaps we should consider RNA viruses’ capacity for mutation/ rapid evolution, and look to stop the increasing spread and severity of disease early on. Already annual infection has increased from 16 to 350 cases. In our studies of transmission and globalization, we’ve learned how viruses can be spread globally with ease, and how rapidly mutating viruses can transition from debilitating to fatal. Perhaps more effort should be put into preventing the spread of the viruses.


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