Two isolates of a virus of the genus Orthobunyavirus (family Bunyaviridae) were obtained from hemorrhagic fever cases during a large disease outbreak in East Africa in 1997 and 1998. Sequence analysis of regions of the three genomic RNA segments of the virus (provisionally referred to as Garissa virus) suggested that it was a genetic reassortant virus with S and L segments derived from Bunyamwera virus but an M segment from an unidentified virus of the genus Orthobunyavirus. While high genetic diversity (52%) was revealed by analysis of virus M segment nucleotide sequences obtained from 21 members of the genus Orthobunyavirus, the Garissa and Ngari virus M segments were almost identical. Surprisingly, the Ngari virus L and S segments showed high sequence identity with those of Bunyamwera virus, showing that Garissa virus is an isolate of Ngari virus, which in turn is a Bunyamwera virus reassortant. Ngari virus should be considered when investigating hemorrhagic fever outbreaks throughout sub-Saharan Africa.
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