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Mosquito-borne Chikungunya virus claims more U.S. states

This map shows the geographic distribution of the Chikungunya virus in the U.S. and its territories as of July 22, 2014.
This map shows the geographic distribution of the Chikungunya virus in the U.S. and its territories as of July 22, 2014.
Photo: Centers for Disease Control (CDC)

With 82 confirmed cases in Florida, the mosquito-borne virus Chikungunya (pronunciation: \chik-en-gun-ye) is a growing concern for U.S. families. The July 22 update from Centers for Disease Control (CDC) reported a total of 497 reported chikungunya cases from U.S. states and territories. One hundred ninety-seven locally-transmitted cases have been reported from Florida, Puerto Rico, and the US Virgin Islands. All other cases occurred in travelers returning from affected areas in the Caribbean and South America, the Pacific Islands, or Asia.

According to the CDC, the most common symptoms of chikungunya virus infection are fever and joint pain. Other symptoms may include headache, muscle pain, joint swelling, or rash. Symptoms usually begin 3–7 days after being bitten by an infected mosquito. Though most symptoms improve in approximately one week, it can take several months for the symptoms to fully resolve and can be debilitating for the sick and elderly.

The mosquitoes that spread the virus also bite dogs, cats, deer, squirrels and other animals. When you prepare to go outdoors with your pets, consider a non-toxic mosquito repellent and avoid prolonged exposure.

In late 2013, chikungunya virus was found for the first time in the Americas on Caribbean islands. As vacationers and business travelers return to their local communities, the local mosquito population spreads the virus from the infected traveler to others who are bitten by the same mosquitoes. Chikungunya virus is most often spread to people by Aedes aegypti and Aedes albopictus mosquitoes. Often called Asian tiger mosquitoes, these are the same mosquitoes that transmit dengue virus and they bite mostly during the daytime.

In the absence of a vaccine or medication to treat chikungunya, an ounce is truly worth a pound of cure. Travelers should take extra precautions to protect themselves from mosquito bites. Use plenty of insect repellent, wear long sleeves and pants, and stay in air-conditioned areas and in buildings with window and door screens.

To better track the spread of the virus, the CDC asks the public to report chikungunya cases to ArboNET, the national surveillance system for arthropod-borne diseases. Managed by CDC and state health departments, ArboNET was developed in 2000 in response to the 1999 detection of West Nile Virus in the U.S.

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