Arbovirus, arenavirus, and filovirus are viruses that are spread from animals to people and, with some viruses, from people to people. The animal involved depends on the type of virus.
Many of these infections do not cause symptoms. Symptoms of most of these infections, when they occur, are usually mild and vague and resemble flu symptoms Symptoms Influenza (flu) is a viral infection of the lungs and airways with one of the influenza viruses. It causes a fever, runny nose, sore throat, cough, headache, muscle aches (myalgias), and a general... read more . As the infection progresses, people may have swollen lymph glands, rashes, and joint pain. Some of these viruses can infect the tissues that cover the brain and spinal cord (meningitis Viral Meningitis Viral meningitis is inflammation of the layers of tissue that cover the brain and spinal cord (meninges) and of the fluid-filled space between the meninges (subarachnoid space) when it is caused... read more ) or the brain (encephalitis Encephalitis Encephalitis is inflammation of the brain that occurs when a virus directly infects the brain or when a virus, vaccine, or something else triggers inflammation. The spinal cord may also be involved... read more ). Some cause fever with a tendency to bleed easily (called hemorrhagic fever Hemorrhagic Fevers Overview Hemorrhagic fevers are serious viral infections characterized by bleeding (hemorrhage). Hemorrhagic fevers can be caused by many different types of virus. Depending on the type of virus, these... read more ), which can be life threatening.
Arboviruses are arthropod-borne viruses. An arbovirus is not a single type of virus. Scientists apply the name arbovirus to over 250 different viruses from many different families of virus that are spread to people or animals by certain arthropods that feed on blood. Arthropods include insects (such as flies and mosquitoes) and ticks. At least 80 arboviruses cause disease in people.
Most arboviruses are transmitted by mosquitoes, but some are transmitted by ticks, one (Oropouche virus) is transmitted by midges, and others are transmitted by sand flies. Arboviruses are spread when an insect or tick bites an infected animal, then bites another animal or a person. Most arbovirus infections are not spread from person to person, perhaps because the amount of virus in human blood is inadequate to infect the arthropod vector. Exceptions include chikungunya disease and the flavivirus infections dengue Dengue Dengue is a mosquito-borne viral infection that causes fever, generalized body aches, and, if severe, external and internal bleeding (called dengue hemorrhagic fever). About 50 to 100 million... read more , yellow fever Yellow Fever Yellow fever is a mosquito-borne viral disease that occurs mainly in the tropics. Yellow fever occurs only in the tropical areas of Central Africa, southern Panama, and South America. Some people... read more , and Zika virus infection Zika Virus Infection Zika virus infection is a mosquito-borne viral infection that typically causes no symptoms but can cause fever, rash, joint pain, or infection of the membrane that covers the white of the eye... read more , which can be transmitted from person to person by mosquitoes. Also, Zika virus can be spread during sexual activity. Uncommonly, dengue, chikungunya, and Zika viruses have been spread by blood transfusion or organ donation or from mother to newborn at birth. Casual, everyday contact has not been shown to transmit arboviruses from person to person.
Many arboviruses that were once present in only a few parts of the world are now spreading. These viruses include chikungunya virus, Crimean-Congo hemorrhagic fever virus, Japanese encephalitis virus, Rift Valley fever virus, West Nile virus West Nile Virus Infection West Nile virus infection is a viral disease spread primarily from mosquitoes to people. Most people have mild or no symptoms, but some people develop a severe infection that affects the central... read more , Ross River virus, and Zika virus. These viruses are spreading partly because climate change has resulted in more areas where the mosquitoes that spread the viruses can live. Also, travelers may be infected in areas where the virus is common, then return home and be bitten by a mosquito, which spreads the virus to other people.
Chikungunya virus is spread by a certain species of mosquito called the Aedes mosquito. This virus was first identified in Africa but has recently spread to the Caribbean and Central, South, and North America. Chikungunya virus infection typically causes a fever and severe joint pain, often in the hands and feet. Infected people may also have a headache, muscle pain, joint swelling, or a rash. Most people feel better within a week, but joint pan can persist for months or sometimes even years.
Arenaviruses are spread by rodents. Infections caused by these viruses include lymphocytic choriomeningitis Lymphocytic Choriomeningitis Lymphocytic choriomeningitis is a viral infection that usually causes a flu-like illness, sometimes with rash, joint pain, or infections in other parts of the body. Most people become infected... read more , Lassa fever Lassa Fever and South American Hemorrhagic Fevers Lassa fever and South American hemorrhagic fevers caused by arenaviruses are viral infections that cause bleeding (hemorrhage) and organ malfunction. They often result in death. These infections... read more , Bolivian hemorrhagic fever (caused by Machupo virus), Venezuelan hemorrhagic fever (caused by Guanarito virus), and Argentine hemorrhagic fever (caused by the Junin virus). Lassa fever can also be spread from person to person through contact with body fluids (such as saliva, urine, feces, or blood). Arenavirus infections are relatively common in people in some areas of the world and can cause severe disease.
Filoviruses can cause severe hemorrhagic fever Hemorrhagic Fevers Overview Hemorrhagic fevers are serious viral infections characterized by bleeding (hemorrhage). Hemorrhagic fevers can be caused by many different types of virus. Depending on the type of virus, these... read more in people and other primates (such as apes and monkeys). So far, only two members of this group of viruses have been identified:
How these viruses first spread to people has not been identified. However, experts think that the first person was infected by handling or eating an infected animal, such as a fruit bat or primate. These viruses spread readily from person to person.
Culture of blood or infected tissue
To diagnose these infections, doctors may do blood tests and cultures. Blood may be tested for antibodies to or antigens of a virus. (Antibodies Antibodies One of the body's lines of defense ( immune system) involves white blood cells (leukocytes) that travel through the bloodstream and into tissues, searching for and attacking microorganisms and... read more are proteins produced by the immune system Overview of the Immune System The immune system is designed to defend the body against foreign or dangerous invaders. Such invaders include Microorganisms (commonly called germs, such as bacteria, viruses, and fungi) Parasites... read more to help defend the body against a particular attack. Antigens Overview of the Immune System are proteins on or in viruses that trigger the body’s defenses.) Culture Culture of Microorganisms Infectious diseases are caused by microorganisms, such as bacteria, viruses, fungi, and parasites. Doctors suspect an infection based on the person's symptoms, physical examination results,... read more involves growing microorganisms in the laboratory from samples of blood, body fluid, or other material taken from an infected area until there are enough to identify.
Polymerase chain reaction (PCR) techniques may be used to make many copies of the virus's genetic material. This technique enables doctors to rapidly and accurately identify the virus.
Tests are sometimes done quickly—for example, when the infection is a serious threat to public health or when symptoms are severe.
A sample of blood or other tissues is sometimes examined with an electron microscope, which provides high magnification with clear resolution.
Treatment of most of these infections focuses on relieving symptoms and maintaining vital functions. For example, transfusions may be given if bleeding is severe.
The antiviral medication ribavirin may be used to treat hemorrhagic fever, as may occur in Lassa fever Lassa Fever and South American Hemorrhagic Fevers Lassa fever and South American hemorrhagic fevers caused by arenaviruses are viral infections that cause bleeding (hemorrhage) and organ malfunction. They often result in death. These infections... read more .
Because there are so many different arboviruses, it is often easier and cheaper to control arbovirus infections by controlling the arthropods that spread them and preventing exposure to the virus (including preventing mosquito and tick bites) than by developing specific vaccines or drug treatments.
Controlling mosquitoes is difficult, but new approaches are being developed and tested. In addition to using chemical pesticides, scientists are genetically modifying mosquitoes, releasing sterilized male mosquitoes into the environment, or infecting mosquitoes with a bacteria that blocks virus infection in the mosquitoes.
Preventing exposure to a virus
Infections spread by mosquitoes or ticks can often be prevented by the following:
Reduce or limit infection in vector populations
Wear clothing that covers as much of the body as possible
Use insect repellants, such as DEET (diethyltoluamide)
Wear clothing that has been coated with the insecticide permethrin
Avoid exposure to the mosquito or tick as much as possible
For example, to help prevent mosquito bites, people can limit the time they spend outdoors in wet areas.
For ticks, the following can help:
Stay on paths and trails
Tuck trousers into boots or socks
Wear long-sleeved shirts (see sidebar )
Infections spread by mice or other rodents usually result from exposure to their urine, feces, or another body fluid, which contains the virus. The following can help prevent such exposure:
Before cleaning, air out closed spaces where mice have been.
Before sweeping or cleaning, wet surfaces with a solution that has 10% bleach.
Avoid stirring up dust.
Seal openings where rodents could enter homes.
Put food in rodent-proof containers.
Eliminate potential nesting sites around the home.
Prevention of exposure to Ebola or Marburg virus requires strict quarantine of infected people and use of isolation measures, because these viruses spread readily from person to person.
For these viruses, the only effective vaccines for people that are currently widely available, including in the United States, are for Ebola Ebola Virus and Marburg Virus Infections Marburg and Ebola virus infections cause bleeding and organ malfunction. These infections often result in death. Marburg and Ebola infections are spread through handling live or dead infected... read more , yellow fever virus Prevention , Japanese encephalitis virus, and tick-borne encephalitis Ulcerative Colitis Ulcerative colitis is a chronic inflammatory bowel disease in which the large intestine (colon) becomes inflamed and ulcerated (pitted or eroded), leading to flare-ups (bouts or attacks) of... read more . Vaccines for dengue Dengue vaccine Dengue is a mosquito-borne viral infection that causes fever, generalized body aches, and, if severe, external and internal bleeding (called dengue hemorrhagic fever). About 50 to 100 million... read more are available in several countries, but are only somewhat effective and are given only to people who had a prior dengue infection. A new vaccine is expected to be available soon.