BALTIMORE (NNS) -- Researchers from the U.S. Naval Medical Research Center No. 6 in Lima, Peru, (NAMRU-6) shared findings on distinguishing Zika virus infections from other arboviral infections through a clinic-based febrile surveillance program during a time of active Zika circulation. The findings were presented at the American Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene Annual Meeting, Nov. 7.
Arboviral infections are caused by a group of viruses spread to people by the bite of infected insects, like mosquitoes.
NAMRU-6 has been conducting acute febrile surveillance in civilian and military populations in Latin America for more than 25 years, according to Capt. Nimfa Teneza-Mora, executive officer, NAMRU-6.
"In Iquitos, the largest city in the Amazonian region of Peru, several arboviruses, including dengue, chikungunya, and Venezuelan equine encephalitis, Mayaro, and Zika circulate." said Teneza-Mora.
NAMRU-6 established a local laboratory in Iquitos with a field team of researchers, physicians and laboratory technicians to determine the characteristics of acute febrile illnesses within the region. Among many findings of emerging and re-emerging diseases, the NAMRU-6 team identified the first Zika case and the Peruvian Ministry of Health (PMOH) provided laboratory confirmation.
"Distinguishing Zika virus cases from other arboviral infections is challenging and additional investigations into clinical diagnostics are needed. To date, the clinical presentation of Zika has not been completely described," said Lt. Sarah Jenkins, Head, Vector Borne and Zoonotic Disease Unit.
From May 2016 - January 2017, over 690 febrile patients were enrolled in the study and 48 patients were confirmed to have Zika virus infection. Rash was the most common symptom, followed by muscle ache, and joint pain mostly in the hands and knees. According to Jenkins, to date, no cases of microcephaly or other neurological disorders, hemorrhagic manifestations, or deaths have been reported in Peru as a direct cause from Zika.
Although mild in most people, Zika virus infection can present a great risk to fetuses if mothers are infected during pregnancy.
"The ability of this virus to be transmitted sexually, particularly from males to females, highlights the risks travelers or deployed warfighters in endemic areas could unknowingly transmit the disease to their partners, especially during pregnancy. Effective arbovirus surveillance programs are critical to a better understanding of the risks associated with the Zika virus" said Jenkins.
Through effective research surveillance platforms researchers are able to better understand the causes of febrile illnesses and how they impact the regions where the diseases are endemic and how to better protect the warfighter.
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