The Chapare virus It was discovered in 2004 in Bolivia. It causes an extremely lethal disease known as Chapare hemorrhagic fever. In 2019, in one of its most publicized shoots, two doctors died in a hospital near La Paz.
Now scientists have discovered that this deadly virus is capable of spreading from person to person in hospital settings, which raises concerns about the possibility of generating epidemic outbreaks in the future.
The news was released Monday at the meeting of the American Society for Tropical Medicine and Hygiene (ASTMH, its acronym in English).
“Our work confirmed that a young resident physician, an ambulance physician, and a gastroenterologist contracted the virus after encountering infected patients, and two of these healthcare workers later died,” said Caitlin Cossaboom, an epidemiologist at the Centers for the Disease Control and Prevention (CDC, its acronym in English), during the development of the conference. “We now believe that many bodily fluids can potentially carry the virus,” he added.
The discovery prompted a request to health workers to attend suspected cases of Chapare virus To be extremely careful to avoid exposure to potential contaminants, such as blood, urine, saliva, and semen.
Yet the exact mechanism through which the disease is transmitted from person to person is not known, but it is suspected that saliva could be key.
Researchers they believe that in the Bolivian outbreak, the ambulance doctor who survived contracted the virus from an infected medical resident who was resuscitated on the way to the hospital. That same resident physician, who later died of the disease, is believed to have He contracted it after accidentally ingesting saliva from an infected patient.
There was also evidence of viral RNA in a semen sample taken from a survivor 168 days after being infected, indicating that sexual transmission is another way the virus could spread.
Chapare is an arenavirus, a group of pathogens that includes Lassa virus and Machupo virus, which caused deadly outbreaks in West Africa and Bolivia, respectively.
“It causes hemorrhagic fevers, with a clinical picture similar to that produced by other better known tropical viral infections such as dengue or Ebola,” explained Ignacio Silva, infectologist and academic at the Usach Postgraduate Department, in an article published in Qué Pasa.
He says it is not a frequently identified virus, and it was only discovered recently in the early 2000s. “Some outbreaks have been described, mainly in Bolivia and it has not been seen in other areas, these are scarce reports, although it is believed that it is often confused and not reported because it has been confused with dengue, since the picture is very similar ”.
Michel Serri, an infectologist at the Dávila Clinic, said in the same report that he Chapare virus was detected in 2004, in the Chapare area of Bolivia (hence the name) and that it was related to the death of three people, two health officials due to fever, abdominal pain and bleeding. “It has been seen that the virus is very similar to Ebola and other hemorrhagic fever viruses such as Lassa, which exist in West Africa and it is described that it could be transmitted by a vector that would be a wild rat in the area.”
Silva adds that their diagnosis is difficult to make and that they generally do it in referral centers, such as the CDC. “It may be that there have been more cases diagnosed as dengue and it has finally been this type of virus.”
Cossaboom notes that patients from the 2019 Chapare outbreak suffered from fever, abdominal pain, vomiting, bleeding gums, skin rash, and pain behind the eyes. There is no specific treatment, so patients are treated primarily with intravenous fluids and other supportive care.
The source of the Chapare outbreak in Bolivia in 2019 has yet to be confirmed, but viral RNA was found in rodents near the home of the first identified patient. Viral RNA alone is not sufficient evidence to conclude that rodents are the source, but it offers important information that could help future research to pinpoint the cause.
The rodents involved were pygmy rice rats and small-eared pygmy rice rats, which are found in Bolivia and some of its neighboring countries.
There is still much that is unknown about the Chapare virus, mainly where it originated, how it infects humans and the likelihood of larger outbreaks in Bolivia and elsewhere in South America.
Despite this, since it is a serious disease, Silva says that due to its behavior, form of transmission and little spread “It is very unlikely that it will become a pandemic and in Chile there have been no cases.”
Serri says that in Chile there are no specific records so far, since there have only been two small outbreaks in the Bolivian area, “and probably many have been confused with outbreaks of dengue”.
One of the workers who have made the most effort during the current global health crisis are nurses.
One of them, named Lydia Mobley, an ICU nurse practitioner, gave a shocking account of her work in recent months: she often sees a dramatic “regret” among his most seriously ill patients for failing to take steps to avoid contracting the virus.
It is “common that we hear is that they did not believe that the coronavirus was real, they didn’t think it was serious, ”Mobley said during an interview.
The nurse works like freelance for the Fastaff company in the USA which has allowed travel through many hospitals and clinics in that country.
In that condition, he recognized during an interview with Lana Zak of the CBS channel in that country, the hard times that he has had to live.
“It’s hard to see someone struggling to breathe and see the regret he has, the regret for not wearing a mask, or maybe for not having to go to a party, or maybe not having gone to that wedding or not going to church service, “Mobley said. “In the end, people are dying because they just didn’t realize how serious that situation was. And it’s hard to believe, ”he added.
The US has been the country hardest hit by the coronavirus. Covid-19 cases have risen in November, registering more than 624,000 active cases across the country, according to the Johns Hopkins University registry.
Mobley, who was serving in the Navy when the pandemic began, said he is “Absolutely” scared for her family. He said that while it was difficult being an active duty military member, “I couldn’t imagine going out and coming home with this, that’s for sure.”
She said it is difficult to see her fellow nurses, some of whom have been treating patients since the beginning of the pandemic, struggling not to have a nervous breakdown. “The advice they give me a lot is to just survive,” Mobley said. “I think we all have our breakdowns.”
Mobley couldn’t hold back the tears during the interview, when he remembered that one of his patients died alone with her sitting next to him.
“You don’t want anyone to die alone, but there are still more patients who need care”, Mobley said. “In their moments of death, when all measures are exhausted … you try to make them feel comfortable in their last moments. Because no one deserves to die alone, but sadly families cannot be at bedside with them. That is something really difficult, but it’s happening all over the country. “
Mobley said that while he’s lucky his hospital has enough mechanical ventilators, they are running out of Covid-19 body bags.
The nurse implored anyone who has had Covid-19 to donate plasma, because in his opinion it is one of the most effective treatments to fight against the disease, but it is a limited resource. He also pleaded with his compatriots to do something as simple as wear a mask.
“People are dying and it is very sad”, he pointed. “And I hope more people understand that something as simple as wearing a mask or not going to a party or any small gesture can really make a difference.”
Thousands of people have participated in multiple vaccine trials that different laboratories are developing to combat the coronavirus.
Most of these labs have reported that their prototypes have achieved greater than 90% efficiency. But how do you measure the effectiveness of a vaccine?
As explained in a note by the AFP agency, all these volunteers, once they are inoculated, they continue their lives normally: After their injections they go home, work, study and live like everyone else, with the same recommendations for care, confinement or use of a mask as the rest of the population.
Over time, a number of participants will spontaneously catch Covid-19. It will be known why they must periodically report their symptoms to investigators and any suspicious cases will be diagnosed.
If the vaccine is effective, the number of cases in the group of participants who received the actual vaccine will be less than in the other half, who only received the placebo.
The objective is that the difference is significant enough to rule out that it is the result of chance. Statistical methods come into play to achieve a predetermined level of certainty. A 100% efficacy would mean that there were no cases among those vaccinated and there were several in the placebo group.
The note explained that the main objective of the vaccine it is not to prevent contagion by the coronavirus but to prevent people from developing the disease caused by the virus, that is, Covid-19. It will be considered particularly effective if, in addition, it prevents severe forms of Covid-19.
The idea is that if a vaccine prevents you from falling ill, the public health goal will be achieved, even if the asymptomatic forms continue to spread.
Are the participants voluntarily exposed to the coronavirus? No. It is simply observed if, “in real life”, there is a difference in the incidence of Covid-19 between people who have been vaccinated and those who have not.
Since the disease does not have a 100% effective cure, it would be unethical to deliberately infect people with the coronavirus, although some researchers have proposed doing so in young, healthy people.
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