What Is Mayaro Virus?


In this Article

  • What Is Mayaro Virus?
  • Mayaro Virus Symptoms
  • Mayaro Virus Treatment
  • Mayaro Virus Threat
  • Mosquito Bite Prevention

The Mayaro virus causes a disease with fever, body aches, and other symptoms. Most people recover in days, but some may have long-lasting joint pain. It spreads by mosquito bites and is common in South America, Central America, and the Caribbean. You are at risk of getting this infection if you visit, or live in, forest areas in these regions. 

Mayaro virus disease has recently been spreading to areas where it had not been common. There have been several outbreaks in South and Central American countries. People in areas where this virus is not common do not have immunity to it, so large-scale outbreaks are a threat in many parts of the world.  

What Is Mayaro Virus?

The disease caused by this virus is called Mayaro fever, Mayaro virus disease, or jungle flu. Mayaro virus is an arbovirus (arthropod-borne virus), a virus carried and transmitted mainly by insects. The virus exists as a cycle between primates (monkeys and marmosets) and mosquitoes in tropical forests. Humans who visit the forests are accidental hosts.

Mayaro virus is named after the place it was first identified — Mayaro county in Trinidad. Brazil has the most cases of Mayaro virus infection. Other countries with this disease are Bolivia, Ecuador, French Guyana, Haiti, Peru, Suriname, Trinidad and Tobago, and Venezuela. The United States doesn’t have local transmission of the Mayaro virus. But the disease is seen in travelers who have returned from countries that have transmission.

The Mayaro virus is a disease of monkeys, and mosquitoes carry and transmit it. Humans going into the forest are infected if they are bitten by infected mosquitoes. This mosquito virus is mainly transmitted by Haemagogus species mosquitoes.

Aedes mosquito species can also transmit this virus. Aedes aegypti and Aedes albopictus have spread to many regions. They can spread the Mayaro virus brought by travelers to the local population. Imported cases have been found in North America and Europe.

The Mayaro virus is related to the chikungunya virus. Chikungunya antibodies generated by infection with that virus provide some protection against Mayaro virus disease.

Mayaro Virus Symptoms

Mayaro virus symptoms are similar to several other arboviral diseases like dengue, chikungunya, Eastern equine encephalitis virus, Oropuche virus, yellow fever virus, and Zika virus. You may experience:

  • Fever
  • Chills
  • Joint pain (arthralgia), commonly in the fingers, wrists, ankles, and toes
  • Pain behind the eyes
  • Dizziness 
  • Itching
  • Swollen glands
  • Flat or raised rash

The disease starts suddenly, and the fever is often high at the start. Mayaro fever can cause significant joint swelling and pain that take you out of action for a few days. The disease doesn’t cause severe symptoms like brain swelling (encephalitis) or bleeding, and there are no deaths.

The symptoms of Mayaro fever don’t last long. You’ll feel better in a few days or weeks. But the joint pains can last for as long as a year.

Mayaro Virus Treatment

You should consult your doctor if you’ve been traveling in the Mayaro virus endemic areas and develop any symptoms. Your symptoms may appear one to 14 days after the mosquito bite. The symptoms are similar to those of many other diseases. Your doctor may ask for laboratory tests to confirm Mayaro disease.

There is no specific treatment for Mayaro virus disease. Your doctor will prescribe medicines to relieve your fever, aches, and other symptoms. They may advise hospitalization if you have severe symptoms.

Mayaro Virus Threat

Currently, the Mayaro virus affects people living in or visiting certain areas in some countries of the Caribbean, Central America, and South America. The possibility of this virus spreading to other regions is a major threat. People outside the affected areas have not experienced this infection and have no immunity to it. This means the Mayaro virus may spread quickly and cause severe illness if travelers introduce it into new areas.

The Mayaro virus has not been considered a global threat until recently. The rapid increase in international travel and the spread of mosquitoes have increased the dangers to populations in newer areas. Mayaro disease is now prevalent in Mexico and Haiti and is a danger to southeastern and southwestern American states. 

Mosquitoes that can transmit this infection have spread to many countries worldwide. Aedes aegypti and Aedes albopictus are now present in at least 20 US states.

Mosquito Bite Prevention

This is the only effective way to avoid Mayaro virus infection. If you live in or travel to the areas where the Mayaro virus is transmitted, take steps to avoid mosquitoes:

  • Wear pants and long-sleeved shirts outdoors. Avoid exposing your skin as much as possible.
  • Treat clothes, mosquito nets, and camping gear with 0.5% permethrin. This insecticide keeps mosquitoes away.
  • Apply mosquito repellent. Effective repellents are DEET, picaridin, oil of lemon eucalyptus, PMD, 2-Undecanone, and IR3535.
  • Have screens on the doors and windows to keep mosquitoes out.
  • Have mosquito nets around your bed, especially if the room is not screened. The net should be long enough to tuck under the mattress.

Protecting yourself from mosquito bites is crucial while traveling. Apart from the Mayaro virus, you will be protected from:

  • Malaria
  • Dengue
  • Chikungunya
  • Dirofilariasis (dog heartworm)
  • Japanese encephalitis
  • Lymphatic filariasis
  • Rift Valley fever
  • Ross River virus
  • Yellow fever
  • Zika virus

Mayaro virus disease is not life-threatening. But the joint pain can be severe and prolonged. Your ability to work and perform activities of daily living may be affected for weeks or months. Antiviral drugs are being investigated, but none have yet been proven to be clinically useful. 

Show Sources

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: “Mayaro Virus,” “Mayaro virus. For Healthcare Providers” “Mayaro Virus. Prevention,” “Prevent Mosquito Bites.”
Pathogens: “Mayaro Virus Pathogenesis and Transmission Mechanisms.”
Public Health Reports: “Pregnancy Intention-More Important Than Ever.”
Revista Panamericans De Salud Publica: “Mayaro virus in Latin America and the Caribbean.”
Virus Adaptation and Treatment: “Mayaro virus: the jungle flu.” 
Viruses: “Mayaro Virus: The State-of-the-Art for Antiviral Drug Development.”

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