Chikungunya isn’t new to Florida; a handful of cases are reported annually, but have always been the result of Florida natives traveling to the Caribbean. Recently, however, the Florida Health Department has confirmed two cases of Chikungunya that originated in the state.
According to officials, the disease is the result of infected individuals returning from the Caribbean and then being bitten by a Florida mosquito. The Florida mosquito then becomes a carrier for Chikungunya, increasing the spread of the disease in the area.
Both individuals who were diagnosed recently are doing well, indicate officials, and at the moment the DOH indicates there is no cause for alarm. Chikungunya cannot be transmitted from person to person; it requires the bite of an intermediate host–the mosquito. The patients were described as a 41-year-old woman in Miami-Dade County who began experiencing symptoms on June 10, and a 50-year-old man in Palm Beach County, who first noticed symptoms July 1.
“We encourage everyone to take precautions against mosquitoes to prevent chikungunya and other mosquito-borne diseases by draining standing water, covering your skin with clothing and repellent and covering doors and windows with screens, said said Dr. Anna Likos, State Epidemiologist and Disease Control and Health Protection Director in a statement.
What is Chikungunya?
Chikungunya is a viral disease transmitted to humans from infected mosquitoes. The disease, according to the World Health Organization (WHO) often is mistaken for dengue, another mosquito-borne illness common in tropical areas. Chikungunya, however, is not often a cause of morbidity, though in the elderly it can contribute to cause of death.
“Chikungunya is characterized by an abrupt onset of fever frequently accompanied by joint pain,” states WHO. “Other common signs and symptoms include muscle pain, headache, nausea, fatigue and rash. The joint pain is often very debilitating, but usually lasts for a few days or may be prolonged to weeks.”
After the bite from an infected mosquito–usually Aedes aegypti and Aedes albopictus, two species which can also transmit other mosquito-borne viruses–the disease takes 4 to 8 days to develop within the body, with symptoms typically lasting up to 12 days.
Most individuals who contract Chikungunya recover fully though joint pain can persist for months or even years.
Though the Florida cases are the first of this disease to be reported in the United States, Chikungunya has been documented in 40 countries across the globe, originating in southern Tanzania in 1952.
What should be done?
Unfortunately, there is no cure for chikungunya, and the only defense against it is taking precautions when outside and trying to manage mosquito populations. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) make the following recommendations for prevention of chikungunya:
- Use air conditioning or window/door screens to keep mosquitoes outside. If you are not able to protect yourself from mosquitoes inside your home or hotel, sleep under a mosquito bed net.
- Help reduce the number of mosquitoes outside your home or hotel room by emptying standing water from containers such as flowerpots or buckets.
- When weather permits, wear long-sleeved shirts and long pants.
- Use insect repellents
- Repellents containing DEET, picaridin, IR3535, and oil of lemon eucalyptus and para-menthane-diol products provide long lasting protection.
- If you use both sunscreen and insect repellent, apply the sunscreen first and then the repellent.
- Do not spray repellent on the skin under your clothing.
- Treat clothing with permethrin or purchase permethrin-treated clothing.
- Always follow the label instructions when using insect repellent or sunscreen.