Just in time for the hot, humid, bug-bite-riddled summer, here’s another disease to worry about: Researchers from the University of Florida have confirmed a new mosquito-borne virus has made the jump from infecting only animals to infecting humans in a study published earlier this month.
The first known case of the Keystone virus has been identified in a 16-year-old boy after a year of tests and analysis, Glenn Morris, director of the university’s Emerging Pathogens Institute, told NPR member station WUSF.
The teen was infected while attending band camp in north Florida last summer, and suffered from a fever and severe rash. Doctors could not figure out what was ailing him, and tested for Zika and various other pathogens, but hit a series of dead ends.
“We couldn’t identify what was going on,” Morris told the station. “We screened this with all the standard approaches and it literally took a year and a half of sort of dogged laboratory work to figure out what this virus was.”
As the station reported, the virus was initially discovered in the northwestern of Tampa in 1964 and “has been found in animal populations along coastal regions stretching from Texas to the Chesapeake Bay.”
But until now, there hasn’t been a way to test humans for the Keystone virus, spread by aedes atlanticus, a common Florida mosquito and a cousin to the insect that carries Zika.
Scientists reported the virus is part of a group that can cause encephalitis — inflammation of the brain — in humans and other species. But it is unclear if Keystone does.
Morris suspects a lot of other people in the Southeast may be carrying the virus.
“There is a reasonable chance that there is a number of cases out there,” he told Tampa’s Fox 13.