Author(s): Madani TA
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Abstract OBJECTIVES: Four patients with typical acute viral hemorrhagic fever were identified in the holy city of Makkah, Saudi Arabia, between 8 and 23 February 2001, the Hajj (pilgrimage) period of that year. Tests for Rift Valley fever (RVF), Crimean-Congo hemorrhagic fever (CCHF), and dengue were negative. Blood specimens were sent to the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Atlanta for viral culture and testing for other hemorrhagic fever viruses. A new flavivirus closely related to the tick-borne Kyasanur forest disease virus was isolated. This new flavivirus was originally isolated in 1995 from 6 patients with dengue-like hemorrhagic fever from Alkhumra district, south of Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. METHODS: A case definition was formulated for surveillance of this new disease in Saudi Arabia. Blood specimens were collected from all patients with suspect 'Alkhumra' virus (ALKV) infection and tested for ALKV, RVF, CCHF, dengue, and West Nile encephalitis. Patients data were prospectively collected on standardized data collection forms. RESULTS: From 8 February 2001 through 9 February 2003, a total of 37 cases were identified in Makkah, 20 of them were laboratory confirmed. Acute febrile flu-like illness with hepatitis (100\%), hemorrhagic manifestations (55\%), and encephalitis (20\%) were the main clinical features. The case fatality was 25\%. The disease seemed to be transmitted from sheep or goat to humans by the mosquito bites or direct contact with these animals. CONCLUSIONS: ALKV infection is a novel serious zoonotic hemorrhagic fever virus discovered in Saudi Arabia. The role of arthropods such as ticks and mosquitoes, and animals such as sheep, goat, and rodents in the transmission and maintenance of the virus remains to be elucidated.
This article was published in J Infect
and referenced in Journal of Bioterrorism & Biodefense