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Outbreak of Western Equine Encephalitis Virus in Argentina

Published: 2nd Feb, 2024

Context

The Western Equine Encephalitis Virus outbreak was detected in horses in Argentina and Uruguay.

I.  Outbreak of Virus

A.  Background

  • Western Equine Encephalitis Virus (WEEV):Argentina's International Health Regulations National Focal Point reported a human case of Western Equine Encephalitis Virus (WEEV) infection to PAHO/WHO.

B.  Outbreak Overview

  • Cross-species transmission:Concurrent outbreaks in horses in Argentina and Uruguay highlight the severity and potential for cross-species transmission.

II. Historical Perspective

A. Past Human Cases: Last reported human infections in Argentina were in 1982, 1983, and an isolated event in 1996.The current outbreak underscores the re-emergence of Western Equine Encephalitis after a prolonged hiatus.

B. Regional Context: Previous outbreaks and human cases documented in the U.S. and Canada, with over 3,000 reported cases over the years.

  • Virus Threats:The virus, a recombinant of Eastern Equine Encephalitis Virus (EEEV) and a Sindbis-like virus, poses a significant threat.

III. Virology and Transmission

A. Western Equine Encephalitis Virus (WEEV)

  • WEEV belongs to the Togaviridae family, with an 11.5-kilobase single-stranded RNA genome.
  • Passerine birds serve as reservoirs, while equine species act as intermediate hosts.
  • Mosquitoes, as vectors, transmit the virus to humans, emphasizing the importance of vector control.

IV. Control and Prevention Strategies

A. PAHO/WHO Alert: PAHO/WHO has issued an alert on the risk of WEE spread in the Americas.

B. One Health Approach: Emphasizes collaboration between human, animal, and environmental health sectors.Crucial for effective control and prevention of the virus.

C. Interventions: Environmental modifications, vector control, and equine vaccination recommended in affected and high-risk regions.Enhanced surveillance and detection crucial for preventing further spread.

V.  Way Forward

  • Public health threat: The Western Equine Encephalitis outbreak in Argentina and Uruguay poses a significant public health threat.
  • One Health approach:Immediate and coordinated efforts are essential to curb the spread, with a focus on the One Health approach and targeted interventions.
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