Jamestown Canyon Virus Another Mosquito-Borne Threat

Jamestown Canyon Virus Another Mosquito-Borne Threat

The Little-Known Jamestown Canyon Virus: A Rising Concern

Mosquitoes carrying Jamestown Canyon Virus

You’ve probably heard of West Nile virus, but did you know that mosquitoes can spread various other illnesses? One of these lesser-known diseases is the Jamestown Canyon virus (JCV), which is gaining attention across the United States. While there have been no confirmed human cases of the disease in Connecticut this year, health officials are closely monitoring JCV as it continues to affect more people nationwide.

“In the last six years, we have seen an increase in the number of reported JCV cases,” says Stacey Martin, an epidemiologist with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). However, it’s important to note that this could be due to better awareness of the disease and increased testing.

Although JCV can cause severe diseases such as encephalitis (infection of the brain) or meningitis (infection of the membranes around the brain and spinal cord), it seems that most people who are exposed to the virus do not develop symptoms. In fact, many individuals with mild symptoms, such as fever, fatigue, and headache, may not even seek medical care. It’s worth noting that in comparison to the thousands of reported cases of West Nile virus, only an average of 17 JCV cases are reported annually.

However, due to the occasional severity of the disease and the apparent increase in cases, experts are emphasizing the need to avoid mosquito bites. “We need to continue to look at JCV disease surveillance data to identify possible trends,” advises Martin.

JCV cases are most often reported in Minnesota and Wisconsin. The virus was named after the area in Colorado where it was first identified, and it has been found in almost all U.S. states and even in Canada. A study conducted in 2018 discovered that over 20% of people living in Nova Scotia, Canada, had antibodies to the virus, indicating past infection.

JCV primarily resides in deer and mice, and mosquitoes become carriers of the virus when they bite these animals. Transmission to humans occurs when infected mosquitoes bite us, according to Dr. Bruce Hirsch, an infectious disease specialist at North Shore University Hospital in Manhasset, N.Y. However, Hirsch assures us that being bitten by a mosquito carrying the JCV does not typically pose a significant risk.

“Very, very occasionally, and very, very rarely it causes serious health issues,” he noted. “Most of us who have been in contact with this virus don’t even know it,” Hirsch said. Mild symptoms such as fever and headache may occur, but the most serious adverse effects, like meningitis and encephalitis, are uncommon. It’s important to remember that serious cases are extremely unusual.

While encephalitis is rarely fatal, it can result in long-term consequences such as cognitive difficulties that can persist for some time. It may also cause a stiff neck and seizures. Unfortunately, there is currently no specific treatment or vaccine for Jamestown Canyon virus. Management focuses on supportive care to keep the patient comfortable and prevent seizures.

To avoid JCV and other mosquito-borne diseases like West Nile virus and eastern equine encephalitis, experts recommend using insect repellent and wearing long-sleeved shirts and pants when spending time outdoors. This is especially critical at dawn and dusk, when mosquito activity is at its peak.

Furthermore, it’s essential to be aware of standing or stagnant water, as mosquitoes lay their eggs in these environments. It is recommended by the CDC to regularly empty or dispose of items that hold water, such as vases and flowerpot saucers, at least once a week. Water storage containers, like rain barrels, should also be tightly covered or protected with fine mesh.

Although the Jamestown Canyon virus may not be widely known, its potential impact on public health cannot be ignored. By taking appropriate precautions to minimize exposure to mosquito bites, we can help reduce the risk of JCV transmission and protect ourselves and our communities.

Sources: – Stacey Martin, MSc, epidemiologist, U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention – Bruce Hirsch, MD, infectious disease specialist, North Shore University Hospital, Manhasset, N.Y.


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