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Chikungunya case: New virus spread by mosquitoes in U.S. territory, no vaccine

A new Chikungunya case has been reported in U.S. territory, as health officials have confirmed this week that the virus — which is most commonly spread by mosquitoes and has no vaccine — has been locally spread to a native individual. At this time, no additional information about the patient has been provided, though it has been confirmed that the victim is in the Caribbean region. FOX News reports this Thursday, June 12, 2014, that a second case of Chikungunya is being reported in the islands as well, though it is unknown if the two infections are connected.

A case of Chikungunya, mosquitoes spread virus sans vaccine
Wikimedia Commons

While many Americans have likely heard of mosquito-borne viruses in the past, this week marks the first confirmed Chikungunya case in the U.S. Caribbean area (at least that has been locally transmitted). Darice Plaskett, the Health Commissioner of St. Croix, noted that health officials are working with the CDC in order to spread awareness to both people in the community and abroad. They hope to “raise awareness and prevent the spread of the virus,” particularly because this infection, while only rarely fatal, has no vaccine at this time.

It was the Pan American Health Organization that announced during the first week of June how the number of new cases of this Chikungunya virus has vastly increased this 2014. An approximate recording of over 135,000 believed and confirmed instances of the virus have been determined following the Western Hemisphere’s first local exposure to the public.

According to Healthy Living News, this first Chikungunya case was detected in the U.S. Caribbean territory near St. Martin. The viral disease — which is said to have first originated in Africa — has unfortunately been spreading at a swift pace, with confirmed cases being documented in Guyana and the French Guiana of South America as well.

As of this Thursday, there are no confirmed cases of the mosquito-borne Chikungunya virus reaching the U.S. nation. However, several states are looking into isolated cases where residents have reported some troubling symptoms and recently visited the Caribbean. The swiftly spreading disease has brought an understandable sense of fear throughout the country.

Despite the plentiful mosquito species that exist in the world today, only two specific types that live in the U.S. — and are known to actively spread Chikungunya — are in the eastern and southern regions of the country. Certain health officials think that local transmissions of the serious virus might reach the U.S. as early as this summer if sick American travelers return to the states while still infected.

Research into Chikungunya and its potential effects is still being conducted. No vaccine for the virus exists at this time. The major symptoms of Chikungunya include severe joint pain, recurring headaches, and a particularly harsh fever. While easily spread, it is uncommon for the virus to be deadly. Anyone having visited the Caribbean or nearby U.S. territories recently and suffering these sickness symptoms are strongly encouraged to seek medical attention immediately.

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