Last month we reported cases of a serious mosquito-born virus called chikungunya that had infected a number of Floridians returning from travel to Dominica, the Dominican Republic, Haiti and Martininque.
Now the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has confirmed the first case of locally acquired infection in a Florida man who had not traveled outside the country.
This means that infected mosquitoes have arrived in the US.
To present further spread of the virus, health experts warn that it is critical to maintain effective surveillance networks, laboratories where a correct diagnosis can be made, and mosquito control efforts both in this country and around the world.
Chikungunya virus (CHIKV) is transmitted by the same Aedes aegypti mosquito that causes dengue fever. The Aedes albopictus mosquito can also transmit CHIKV.
Within 3 to 7 days after a bite by an infected mosquito, individuals develop fever and severe joint pains - especially in the hands and feet. There may be joint swelling as well as headache and rash.
Death from CHIKV is uncommon. However, joint pains may persist.
According to the CDC, while CHIKV outbreaks have occurred in Africa, Asia, Europe, and the Indian and Pacific Oceans, it wasn’t until late 2013 that it was found for the first time on islands in the Caribbean.
So far this year, 243 travel-associated cases have been reported in 31 states and 2 US territories in the Caribbean Sea.
The CDC is working with the Florida Department of Health to determine if there are additional locally acquired cases.
CDC officials have asked state health departments and health care providers everywhere to report cases of CHIKV to help track the virus within the US.
CHIKV, like dengue, can be transmitted from an infected human to an Aedes mosquito which in turn can bite another human and pass along the disease. That’s why anyone who becomes infected should remain indoors so the virus doesn’t spread further into the local mosquito population.
Currently there is no vaccine to prevent or medicine to treat CHIKV infection.
According to health officials, the best protection against the virus is to prevent mosquito bites with the use of insect repellent to bare skin and clothing ((DEET,picaridin, oil of lemon eucalyptus, andIR3535 are effective).
Wear long sleeves and pants, shoes and socks. Stay in places with air conditioning or that use window and door screens. Empty standing water outside the home
Early detection of the symptoms and preventing mosquitoes from biting will help prevent the disease from spreading further within the US. Individuals who develop symptoms suggestive of CHIKV (see above) should contact their physician immediately.
For more information: about CHIKV