In August 2016, a teen attending band camp in central Florida developed a rash and a fever after being bitten by a mosquito. Because this incident took place during the Zika outbreak in Florida, the teen was tested for Zika. Testing negative for the Zika virus, doctors were back at square one, trying to discover just what caused the boy’s illness.
Keystone is known to affect animals
Although researchers at the University of Florida (UF) were familiar with the Keystone virus as an animal pathogen in north central Florida, Dr. Glenn Morris, Emerging Pathogens Institute Director at UF said, “We couldn’t identify what was going on. Morris told NPR, “We screened this with all the standard approaches and it literally took a year and a half of dogged laboratory work to figure out what this virus was.” On June 9, researchers revealed the Keystone virus as the culprit for the teen’s condition in a report published in the journal, Clinical Infectious Diseases.
Keystone virus, discovered in 1964, is named for an area near Tampa in Hillsborough County. Known to infect raccoons, squirrels and whitetail deer in coastal areas from Texas to the Chesapeake Bay, researchers say this is the first time Keystone has been reported in a human.
Finding syncs with May’s CDC report
This finding coincides with the Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) May 4th report in Vital Signs, that revealed new mosquito, tick, and flea-borne viruses have tripled between 2004 and 2016 and that nine new vector-borne viruses were discovered during this period. While Zika, dengue and West Nile top the list of mosquito-borne viruses in the US, in a CBS news article, CDC Director Robert R. Redfield, M.D. said, these mosquito, tick, and flea diseases have been “making a lot of people sick – And we don’t know what will threaten Americans next.”
Keystone transmitted by mosquito related to the Zika spreading mosquito
Thought to be primarily transmitted by the Aedes Atlanticus mosquito, cousin of the Aedes aegypti mosquito, associated with the Zika virus, Aedes Atlanticus belongs to the California-serogroup of viruses, “known to cause encephalitis in several species including humans, lead study author and UF research professor, Dr. John Lednicky, told NPR. Inflammation of the brain, as well as brain disease, has been reported in animals. The virus can cause a rash and mild fever in humans, as noted in the 16-year old’s case. Fortunately, the Florida teen showed no signs of encephalitis or brain swelling but researchers said that the virus grows well in mouse brains, so it’s a cause for concern for human brains.
Keystone virus in humans on researchers’ radar for several decades
While it took a year and a half to figure what made the Florida teen sick, researchers have suspected that humans have been infected with Keystone virus for nearly half of a century. In a 1972 study published in the American Journal of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene, researchers reported finding Keystone antibodies in one in five participants in a Tampa Bay area study.
University of Florida researcher says more vector-borne research in order
In a Tech Times article, Morris said he thinks that a lot of people in the Southeast could be carrying the Keystone virus. “Although the virus has never previously been found in humans, the infection may be fairly common in North Florida,” he said. “It’s one of these instances where if you don’t know to look for something, you don’t find it.” Now that a test for Keystone virus has been established, Morris said in a University of Florida statement that more research needs to be conducted into vector-borne diseases to discover ways to decrease risks of infection from these emerging pathogens. In addition to keeping an eye on emerging pathogens, like the Keystone virus in humans, South Florida health officials are closely watching the yellow fever outbreak in Brazil.
Yellow fever outbreak affecting more urban centers than usual
In the CDC’s May report in Vital Signs, the agency cited several theories for the increase of vector-borne diseases from 2004 to 2016. Along with rising global temps and increased travel on a global scale, increased awareness of vector-borne diseases, such as West Nile, Zika, Lyme disease, Rocky Mountain spotted fever and dengue fever has likely caused an increase in reporting symptoms in the US.
The yellow fever outbreak that began in 2017 has expanded into urban areas not usually at risk for yellow fever. Health officials worry that travelers, arriving at South Florida airports may bring the disease to the US. Although the World Health Organization (WHO) says an outbreak in the US is unlikely, travelers from Brazil infected with the virus could infect other humans, through a mosquito that contracts the virus.
Hulett recommends Florida residents and visitors practice vigilant prevention measures when it comes to mosquitoes and other insects known to carry infectious diseases. Remembering to wear insect repellent when outdoors and eliminate sources of standing water on your property are good starting points. If mosquitoes are ruining your backyard plans this summer, contact Hulett for a free mosquito inspection. Our people- and pet-friendly approaches to pest control and prevention keep your Hulett Healthy Home happy all year round. Get the most out of your summer fun, just call Hulett!