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Trans R Soc Trop Med Hyg. 1981;75(3):426-31.

Ross River virus (Togaviridae: Alphavirus) infection (epidemic polyarthritis) in American Samoa.


An outbreak of Ross River virus infection (epidemic polyarthritis), which occurred in American Samoa between August 1979 and January 1980, is described. On the basis of a serological survey performed near the end of the epidemic, it is estimated that at least 13,500 people were infected. Ross River virus was isolated from the blood of a single polyarthritis patient. Plaque reduction neutralization tests, using this virus strain, were done on 393 human and 143 animal sera collected on Tutuila island. Over-all, 43.8% of the people sampled had evidence of infection. Sera from 100 adult residents of the same island, collected in 1972, had no Ross River antibody, suggesting recent introduction of the virus. In contrast to the human serological data, the prevalence of Ross River antibodies among animals was relatively low. Dogs and pigs had the highest rates with 20% and 15%, respectively. Results of this study suggest that the Ross River virus cycle during the epidemic in American Samoa involved primarily humans and mosquitoes with animals less frequently infected. These observations plus the recent introduction of Ross River virus into new areas of the South Pacific suggest that a major change has occurred in the epidemiology of epidemic polyarthritis.

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