What is HTLV?
There are two main types, and four subtypes, of HTLV: HTLV-1, HTLV-2, HTLV-3 and HTLV-4. They are retroviruses. HTLV-1 is a very old virus, which appears to have infected and moved with humans for hundreds, if not thousands of years. HTLV-1 is endemic (common) in the Caribbean, Japan, South America, and parts of Africa. Interestingly, it has also been observed in Iran and Romania.
HTLV-2 is often found among native Americans.
The vast majority of persons infected with HTLV-1 do not know that they carry the virus because they do not develop any disease. The virus, incorporates itself into human DNA, can remain in the body throughout life without causing any harm at all. A small minority, about 1 person in 20, will develop disease mostly due to HTLV-1 but this usually occurs only after several decades of infection.
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