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Chikungunya virus hits US mainland

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The chikungunya virus, which has been spreading like wildfire through the Caribbean has now been detected in Palm Beach County, Fl.
First detected in Africa 1953, the mosquitoes born disease is now found throughout the tropics of the Eastern Hemisphere, although it is relatively new to this region, an outbreak of chikungunya occurred in Northern Italy.

"With the increase in travelers the likelihood that something like this would happen goes up and eventually it did," stated Dr. Roger Nasci head of U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s division that tracks insect-borne illnesses. "We ended up with somebody at the right time and the right place infecting mosquitoes."

Those afflicted with the disease experience fever as high as 104 °F, a petechial or maculopapular rash on the torso and limbs, and arthritis affecting multiple joints. Additional symptoms often include headache, insomnia, nausea, vomiting, conjunctivitis, slight photophobia and partial loss of taste, as well as retinal lesions. The incubation period of chikungunya disease typically ranges from 2-3 days, but can go as long as 12 days. While most younger people (as well as pregnant women) usually occurs in 1-2 weeks, while middle-ages patients recover in 1-3 months. Elderly patients, however, may take longer to heal. Recent studies during epidemics have also found that chikungunya “may also cause long-term symptoms following acute infection.”

So far the Pan American Health Organization has reported more than 55,000 suspected and confirmed cases since December throughout the islands, as well as French Guiana, on the South American mainland. While the virus is rarely fatal, the Organization did state that 7 people in the Caribbean with chikungunya have died during the outbreak. However, it was also noted that they “had underlying health issues that likely contributed to their death.”