Arboviruses are a group of viruses transmitted by arthropods (usually mosquitoes), they are known to produce clinical and subclinical illnesses in humans. Illnesses can range in severity from acute, benign fevers of short duration, to mild aseptic meningitis, to encephalitis with coma and death. Arboviral activity in Texas is usually limited to five diseases: California encephalitis (CE), St. Louis encephalitis (SLE), Eastern equine encephalomyelitis (EEE), Western equine encephalomyelitis (WEE), and dengue fever.
Arboviral Encephalitides Information
Agents: Alphaviruses (formerly known as group A arboviruses) are mosquito transmitted and can infect many vertebrate hosts in which infection is usually silent. Birds and rodents are important reservoir hosts. Horses can develop severe disease- a hallmark of new world outbreaks. Alphaviruses include the Venezuelan equine encephalomyelitis (VEE) virus, which could theoretically be produced in either wet or dried form and stabilized for weaponization. Although most experts think that VEE virus is the alphavirus most likely to be used, other new world viruses include Western Equine Encephalitis (WEE) and Eastern Equine Encephalitis (EEE). The New World viruses typically cause encephalitis. Old World alphaviruses typically cause fever, rash, arthropathy, and myalgias rather than encephalitis. Disease is usually mild or asymptomatic. Clinical disease is rare, with children more likely to develop the severe syndrome. If delivered by aerosol route, disease in humans and other animals would occur simultaneously. Attack in areas populated with horses, ratites (ostriches, emus, rheas, and cassowaries) and/or appropriate mosquito vectors could initiate an epizootic epidemic. The virus does not persist more than a few hours in the environment.
Reporting Requirements for Disease: Report patients with suspected alphavirus infections within one week to your local health authority; or, call the Texas Department of State Health Services at 1-800-252-8239. Case clusters or multiple cases should be reported immediately.
Infection Control: Standard Precautions should be employed. Soap and water and hospital grade disinfectants can be used for environmental decontamination. Person-to-person spread is not reported.
Incubation Period: 1-6 days (could vary with route of infection, but often short)
Signs/Symptoms: VEE may be characterized by sudden onset with malaise, high fever (101-105°F), severe headache, rigors, photophobia, myalgias (especially in the legs and lumbosacral area), cough, sore throat, and vomiting. These symptoms may be followed by a prolonged period of asthenia and lethargy. Confusion leading to somnolence and coma may occur. The incidence of seizures is inversely related to age. With natural infection children, and rarely adults, may develop encephalitis. Although the overall case fatality rate is less than 1%, in children with encephalitis it may reach 20-35%. The incidence of Central Nervous System disease may be higher after respiratory infection such as in a bioterrorism attack.
Differential Diagnosis: Patients with VEE lacking neurological symptoms may be difficult to distinguish from patients with other illnesses such as influenza, dengue fever, prodromal Legionnaire's disease, or measles. Patients with neurological symptoms should suggest the diagnosis. More common bacterial and viral as well as fungal and parasitic causes of meningitis and encephalitis should be considered in patients with neurological symptoms. Rickettsial, ehrlichial, and leptospiral illnesses should be considered in patients with headache and fever accompanied by neutropenia, thrombocytopenia, or elevated liver function tests. Other potential bioterrorist agents that may be associated with flu-like prodromes (Bacillus anthracis, Yersinia pestis, Coxiella burnetii, Ebola, and smallpox) need to be considered. Other potential bioterrorist agents that cause flu-like illnesses (Bacillus anthracis, Yersinia pestis, Coxiella burnetii) need to be considered. More common causes of meningitis and encephalitis should be considered in patients with neurological symptoms.
Diagnostic Tests: Prior to onset of encephalopathy, VEE may be diagnosed by virus isolation from blood (collected without anticoagulant), CSF, or throat swab (up to 5 days); serology (on either serum or CSF); and PCR. IgM in a single serum sample (taken 5-7 days after onset) provides rapid presumptive diagnosis. However, this is only in persons without prior known exposure to VEE complex viruses. Diagnosis also can be confirmed either by antigen-capture enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA) or reverse transcriptase polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) using a single serum sample or CSF taken early in the febrile, viremic phase. Viremia is brief and terminates as soon as antibodies develop.
Specimen Submission: All specimens must be triple contained in an approved shipping container and have biohazard labels. Specimens for viral culture must be shipped overnight on ice (+4°C), or frozen on dry ice (–80°C) if delays are anticipated; serology specimens may be shipped at room temperature. Culture is time consuming and must be performed in BSL3 facilities. The receiving laboratory must be alerted prior to transport by calling (800) 252-8239 (“press 1”). Newly available diagnostic tests may be discussed at that time Specimens must be accompanied by a Specimen Submission Form (G-1A) and submitted to the Texas Department of State Health Services Laboratory, 1100 West 49th Street, Austin, TX 78756.
Additional Tests: Leukopenia and lymphopenia are common. Thrombocytopenia may occur. Elevated serum glutamic-oxaloacetic transaminase (SGOT) levels are common. CSF may be under increased pressure in cases with encephalitis, and contain up to 1000 white cells/mm3 (predominantly mononuclear cells) and exhibit mildly elevated protein concentration.
Treatment: Supportive therapy should be given. Some patients may be treated with analgesics to relieve headaches and myalgias. Patients who develop encephalitis may require anticonvulsant and intensive care to maintain fluid and electrolyte balance, and ventilatory support.
- West Nile Virus in Texas
West Nile Virus Information (Including Frequently Asked Questions and Fact Sheets), Media Releases, Sample Submission, Maps and Statistics.
- DSHS Entomology
Texas Department of State Health Services Bureau of Laboratories Medical Entomology Section
Surveillance programs to monitor vector activities involving mosquito-borne diseases such as encephalitis and dengue, including guidelines for submission of mosquitoes.
- CDC Arbovirus Home
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Division of Vector-Borne Infectious Diseases
Fact sheets and information regarding Arboviral Encephalitides; Arbovirus Vectors; and Specific Arboviral Encephalitides, including Eastern Equine Encephalitis, Japanese Encephalitis, La Crosse Encephalitis, St. Louis Encephalitis, Western Equine Encephalitis, and Western Equine Encephalitis
Several Texas laws (Tex. Health & Safety Code, Chapters 81, 84 and 87) require specific information regarding notifiable conditions be provided to the Texas Department of State Health Services (DSHS). Health care providers, hospitals, laboratories, schools, and others are required to report patients who are suspected of having a notifiable condition (Texas Administrative Code, Title 25 Part 1 Chapter 97 Subchapter A Rule 97.2 - Who Shall Report).
Report encephalitis (specify etiology) within one week. Reporting Forms