A new mosquito-borne illness has surfaced in the United States, which causes painful symptoms and has many people on high alert. The disease, native to sub-Saharan Africa is raging in the Caribbean and is being carried back to the US by travelers.
Chikungunya is a viral infection transmitted to humans by infected mosquitoes. The virus, first described in 1952, is believed to have originated in Tanzania in southeast Africa. It has since spread throughout sub-Saharan Africa, Southeast Asia and islands of the Indian and Pacific Ocean.
In 2013, health experts identified the first cases in the Caribbean and determined that local mosquitos were carrying the disease. The virus is widespread, with up to 17 different countries in the Caribbean reporting cases of the disease.
Symptoms of Chikungunya Mosquito Borne Infection
The name “Chikungunya” derives from a southeast African word in the Kimakonde language which means “to become contorted” and describes the stooped appearance of sufferers with joint pain. Symptoms start four to eight days after the mosquito bite (range from two to 12 days). Symptoms typically resolve within a week, although some people may experience long-term joint pain.
Chikungunya, also known as CHIKV, is generally not fatal, but the painful symptoms have led people to say “It won’t kill you, but it may make you wish you were dead!”
Typical Symptoms of Chikungunya Infection Include:
- Severe joint pains (especially in the hands and feet)
- Muscle pain
- Joint swelling
Table showing frequency of acute symptoms of CHIKV Infection, taken from Pan American Health Organization Preparedness and Response for Chikungunya Virus: Introduction to the Americas report. Published in 2011.
As of this week, health officials confirmed chikunguya cases in North Carolina, Nebraska, Indiana and Tennessee. Florida’s 25 cases account for the majority reported in the United States, according to state health officials and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Currently, the disease is being spread by travelers and is not transmitted by local mosquitoes. Virginia Pest Management Professionals are on high alert, informing the public about the disease and what steps the can take to prevent mosquito borne illnesses in our area.
CHIKV Updates From The Caribbean
- The Caribbean Public Health Agency said this week the number of confirmed and suspected cases had risen to 135,651, up from just over 100,000 on June 2. The virus has been detected in 20 countries and territories, with the largest outbreak of suspected cases in the Dominican Republic.
- Health officials in the Dominican Republic said they detected more than 77,000 suspected cases since the virus reached the country five and half months ago, including 20,000 new suspected cases in the last week alone, according to the Public Health Ministry.
How You Can Help Prevent The Spread of Mosquito Borne Illnesses
Chikungunya, West Nile virus and other public health threats have become an issue in Virginia and across the United States in recent years. Citizens are asking what they can do to protect themselves, even in their own backyards.
Contact a local Pest Management Professional, who can help reduce your exposure to mosquito bites by inspecting properties for breeding sites and treating when necessary.
What Can You Do At Home
- Eliminate or reduce mosquito-breeding areas by replacing all standing water at least once per week. This includes birdbaths, ponds and unfiltered pools.
- Remove unneeded vegetation or trash from around any standing water sources that cannot be changed, dumped or removed.
- Introduce mosquito-eating fish such as gambusia, green sunfish, bluefish and minnows to standing water.
- Seal and screen all windows, doors, and other openings.
- Avoid going outdoors when and where mosquitoes are most active: during dusk or dawn.
- Use insect repellent on exposed skin whenever or wherever mosquitoes are likely to bite. The most effective repellents currently available contain the active ingredient DEET in concentrations up to about 35% (greater concentrations don’t offer better protection).
- Wear light colored, long-sleeved shirts and long-legged pants preferably treated with repellant as well.