The virus that causes chapare hemorrhagic fever - a rare disease which has been identified in Bolivia - can be transmitted between humans, the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced Monday.
The news comes amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, and a race against time to procure a safe and viable vaccine against the disease which has upturned lives around the world.
One small outbreak of the virus had previously been documented in 2004. This was in the Chapare region, located east of La Paz in Bolivia. It can cause haemorrhagic fevers like Ebola.But scientists have now found out that in 2019, two patients transmitted the virus to three healthcare workers in La Paz. One of the patients and two medical workers later died, the Guardian reports.
CDC epidemiologist Caitlin Cossaboom said it was discovered that a young medical resident, an ambulance medic and a gastroenterologist all contracted the virus after encounters with infected patients.
"Two of the healthcare workers later died. We now believe many bodily fluids can potentially carry the virus,” she said, at the annual meeting of the American Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene (ASTMH), where the findings were presented.
It is suspected that the virus is borne by rats, who may have transmitted it to humans. Generally, viruses which spread through bodily fluids are easier to contain than respiratory viruses, like Covid-19.
What are the Symptoms?
Cossaboom said the patients suffered fever, abdominal pain, vomiting, bleeding gums, skin rash and pain behind the eyes. There are no specific drugs for the disease, which means patients can only be provided supportive care such as intravenous fluids.
Maria Maria Morales-Betoulle, a pathologist at the CDC, said the team was "really surprised" when it was found out the underlying cause was the Chapare virus. “We isolated the virus, and we were expecting to find a more common disease, but the sequence data pointed to Chapare virus,” she said.
Researchers also said it was likely that the virus had been circulating undetected for several years, as it could easily be misdiagnosed as dengue, a virus with similar symptoms. To grasp its potential to cause outbreaks, scientists said they wanted to continue researching the virus.