Thursday, July 24, 2014

Chiku-what?! Florida resident is first to contract mosquito-borne disease within the US

U.S. health officials are on alert for a painful disease with an unusual name, after a new case was diagnosed in a Florida man in July.

Chikungunya, an infectious disease spread by mosquitoes, causes fever and severe joint pain. There’s no cure for the disease and treatment is aimed at relieving symptoms. While the disease can’t be spread from person to person, it can be spread when a mosquito bites an infected person and then a healthy one.

Health officials have known about chikungunya for a long time — it was first described during an outbreak in Tanzania in 1952. As global temperatures have warmed and some types of mosquitoes have spread, the disease has spread to more than 40 countries. An ongoing outbreak in the Caribbean has been linked to thousands of cases.

Photo courtesy CDC Media Relations
In the U.S., cases of chikungunya are usually brought home by travelers who contract the disease in another country. In 2014, more than 240 cases have been imported by travelers.

But in the July Florida case, the man diagnosed with the disease had not traveled outside of the U.S. recently, meaning he caught chikungunya here. The case is the first to be confirmed in the U.S. as locally-acquired. That has put health officials on alert.

Health officials don’t know how much of a problem chikungunya will be in the United States. But as with West Nile virus, which was first reported in the U.S. in 1999 and causes annual cases across the country — with 2,469 cases and 119 deaths reported to CDC in 2013 — there is a chance that the disease will become a regular occurrence.

Photo courtesy CDC Media Relations
However, the good news is that chikungunya is not fatal and can easily be prevented. Here are some basic steps to protect you and your family from mosquitoes:
• Use insect repellent when outdoors.
• Wear clothing that covers your feet, legs and arms.
• Avoid going outside at dawn or dusk, when mosquitoes are most active.

Want to know more on how to protect yourself? Check out our Get Ready mosquitoes fact sheet. 

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