A deadly Ebola-like disease in Bolivia can spread from person to person, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) warned on Monday.
The infection known as chapare virus causes a high fever, stomach pain, bleeding gums, eye pain, and rashes.
A single case was reported in the Bolivian province after which the disease was named in 2003 after it jumped from animals – apparently through rodent bites or scratches – to humans.
Now, at a Monday conference, the CDC confirmed that it reappeared in 2019, expanding from one patient to four other patients – and three of the five cases were fatal, LiveScience reported.
If this sounds like coronavirus deja vu, it isn't, CDC officials say. They find that hemorrhagic fevers like chapare and Ebola are very rarely widespread because they have immediate, obvious symptoms and, unfortunately, are often fatal before they can spread.
And most of the people who died in the 2019 outbreak weren't incidental, incomprehensible contacts, but rather healthcare workers who had to interact with the infected person in the course of their care.
For the first time, CDC scientists discovered that the rare Ebola-like chapare virus can be transmitted between people after a group of five cases – including three deaths – were reported in Bolivia. Pictured: a microscopic picture of the Chapare virus
With the additionally confirmed cases of the Chapare virus, only six cases are known so far.
After the first case nearly two decades ago, the virus appeared to be disappearing.
But last year a hospital near La Paz, Bolivia's capital, reached out to CDC investigators.
They had a strange collection of diseases and suspected dengue fever, a mosquito-borne disease common in tropical regions.
Like Ebola, dengue fever can cause abdominal pain and nausea, pain behind the eyes, aches and pains in the joints and muscles, and life-threatening internal bleeding if it progresses to a more severe form.
When the Bolivian scientists tested the samples from the five patients, they were completely negative for dengue, as well as a whole host of other infections in the area, including other hemorrhagic fevers and yellow fever.
The hospital didn't have a test – a profile that responds to a specific pathogen – for the Chapare virus, which had only been detected once in humans.
But the CDC did, and each of the five samples contained bits of the genetic material of the Chapare virus.
And the similarities and changes in the samples suggested that they were passed down from person to person.
Through their investigation, the CDC scientists suspect that the doctor who died in the outbreak likely passed the virus on to the paramedic who CPR resuscitated her on the way to the hospital to allow the virus to be transmitted through body fluids.
Rodent feces found near the home of the deceased first patient also contained the virus, indicating the path the virus made the leap from animals to humans.
One surviving patient still had detectable chapare levels in his semen 168 days after the catch.
The results are frightening for two reasons: the virus can be transmitted from person to person – the type of transmission that turned COVID-19 into a pandemic – and it can, at least in traces, linger for a long period of time.
So far, four out of six people who have had chapare have died.
While this makes the virus exponentially more deadly than the coronavirus, it also means the virus has less chance of spreading.
It is also a very symptomatic disease, and symptoms appear almost immediately after infection.
This is the opposite of coronavirus, where an estimated 40 percent of cases are asymptomatic. This makes it the best nightmare virus from the US infectious disease specialist Dr. Anthony Fauci.
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