Recently, health officials announced that a painful mosquito-borne virus, Chikungunya, had been transmitted for the first time in United States when two locally acquired cases were reported in Florida. One infected resident belongs to the Palm Beach County and other was reported in Miami Dade County.

Mosquito-Borne Chikungunya Virus
The health officials further stated that the Florida Department of Health is working in collaboration with the Center for Disease Control and Prevention in order to find out how the infected patients contracted the virus. It has been found that infected patients reported no recent trips to known high risk countries such as Asia, Africa or the Caribbean. The two types of mosquitoes that are reported to spread the disease are usually found across Southeast Asia.

Until a few weeks ago, all cases reported in the US were from individuals who had recently visited these areas. This increases the threat of local transmission, which occurs when the mosquito bites a person with the infection and then transmits the virus by biting other healthy individuals.

Roger Nasci, the chief of CDC’s Arboviral Diseases Branch, stated that the threat of mosquito-borne viruses and other pathogens has increased due to arrival of Chikungunya virus in the tropical Americas and the United States Dr. Anna Likos, disease control and health protection director and Florida’s epidemiologist, instructed everyone to take precautions against mosquitoes in order to prevent spreading of mosquito-borne diseases such as Chikungunya. Dr. Anna further recommended covering the skin with clothing, using mosquito repellant, draining stagnant water and covering windows and doors with screens.

According to the CDC, at least twenty-eight cases of Chikungunya per year have been reported by travelers who returned from countries where this virus is common since 2006. To date, there are approximately 243 cases of people with Chikungunya found in the two territories and 31 states.

The Caribbean has been affected the most with this virus in the last few months. Thousands of people have been infected with this virus and complain of high fever, severe headaches and painful joints. Symptoms of this disease are usually seen within three to seven days after an infected mosquito bites. Although rarely deadly, the virus can be extremely excruciating and debilitating. Presently, there is no vaccine for Chikungunya. Patients normally recuperate from infection in about a week; nonetheless pain can persist for longer.

The CDC is unsure of how the Chikungunya virus will progress in the United States. However, according to epidemiologists it is unlikely to generate outbreaks and they believe that virus will act similar to the dengue virus in the United States, where imported incidences were unable to cause major outbreaks.

The CDC said that between 2006 and 2013, at least 200 imported Chikungunya cases have been reported and none of them caused a local outbreak. However, as the number of Chikungunya-infected travelers entering the US increases, the probability of local Chikungunya transmission will inevitably increase.

How To Prevent Chikungunya Virus Infection?

As stated earlier, there is no vaccine to prevent an infection caused by the Chikungunya virus. Thus, it is important to prevent this infection by avoiding mosquito bites. You can protect yourself from mosquito bites by taking appropriate measure :

  • Mosquitoes thrive and flourish in humid and dirty places. So, ensure to keep your house and surroundings clean.
  • Wear protective clothing such as long-sleeved shirts and long pants, especially when you go out.
  • Utilize insect repellents. Repellents that contain oils extracted from lemon eucalyptus, picaridin, DEET and para-menthane-diol products are effective as they provide long lasting protection. If using sunblock along with the repellant, apply the sunblock followed by the repellant. It is suggested you read the label and all instructions carefully when using insect repellents.
  • It is best to treat your clothing with permethrin or buy permethrin-treated clothing. Avoid spraying permethrin directly on the skin.
  • If possible, stay indoors during hot days. Use screens on doors and windows and air conditioning to keep mosquitoes out. If you are staying in a hotel, consider sleeping under a mosquito bed net to prevent mosquito bites.
  • Avoid any standing water near and inside your home since it can serve as a mosquito breeding ground. You should also avoid pile up in gutters since this can cause water to pool.

Given that there is no cure for Chikungunya virus infection, the best policy to remember is that precaution is better than cure. If symptoms persist and you feel really ill, especially if you have a fever, consult your doctor immediately.

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