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Causative Agent
Two of the criteria by virologists to classify viruses into families include the following:
  • Type of nucleic acid (DNA or RNA) in the virus.
  • Size and symmetry of the capsid (protein coat), and whether it is surrounded by an envelope.

RVF virus causes a febrile (fever-producing) illness, which is sometimes complicated by hemorrhage, encephalitis (inflamation of the brain), and blindness. RVF belongs to the genus Phlebovirus, which is one of five genera in the Bunyaviridae family. The prefix "bunya" refers to the place in Africa (Bunyamwera) where the family prototype (Bunyamwera virus) was first isolated. The viruses in this large family inhabit arthropods (insects and related organisms) and vertebrates. Many of the other Bunyaviridae cause fevers and encephalitis. Other well-known members of the family include the Hantavirus and Oropouche virus.

All of the viruses in the Bunyaviridae family have oval or spherical virions (elementary virus particles). The virions are about 100 nanometers in diameter, smaller than a particle of smoke or a bacterium. They contain three different strands of minus-strand RNA. A virus with minus-strand RNA cannot synthesize protein directly from the RNA; it must first copy a complementary positive strand, and the copy is used for protein synthesis. As with all viruses, the nucleic acid is surrounded by a protein coat called a capsid. In some viruses, the nucleocapsid (the virion's nucleic acid and capsid) is surrounded by an envelope. The Bunyaviridae has such as envelope, which contains a relatively high percentage of lipids (20-30%).

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