North Carolina reported its first case of the mosquito-borne virus Chikungunya, health officials revealed.
The patient was likely infected in the Caribbean, Forsyth County Department of Public Health said. Despite Chikungunya’s primary locations being Africa, East Asia and the Caribbean, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) had been keeping track of the virus’ progress in the United States fearing results similar to West Nile approximately ten years ago.
Roughly 25 to 28 infected travelers bring Chikungunya to the United States every year, CDC Arboviral Disease Branch’s Chief Roger Nasci revealed. “We haven’t had any locally transmitted cases in the U.S. thus far,” he said.
However, health officials were majorly concerned with a major outbreak of the virus in the Caribbean this year with more than 100,000 cases reported.
With the Caribbean being a preferred holiday destination for Americans it was little surprise to see that seven out of the eight travel-associated Chikungunya cases reported in the US this year had travelled from known Chikungunya-transmission countries in the Caribbean, Nasci added.
Furthermore, the Tennessee Department of Health revealed that a few individuals from the state who had travelled to the Caribbean had also contracted the virus.
While the virus is not deadly, it can still be extremely painful with its symptoms lasting for weeks.
On the other side, infectious disease expert Dr. William Shaffner said that the United States was more equipped in dealing with mosquito control in contrast to other countries.
“We live in a largely air-conditioned environment, and we have a lot of screening (window screens, porch screens),” Shaffner added.
The virus, first identified in East Africa in the 1950s, is one that could rapidly spread in tropical areas such as Florida which possess an ecological makeup similar to the Caribbean, the CDC said.
The rarity of the virus is such that unlike most mosquitoes that breed and thrive outdoors from dusk to dawn, Chikungunya generally spreads via Aedes aegypti and Aedes albopictus mosquitoes during daytime, and these are the same mosquitoes that transmit the dengue virus. The disease spreads from mosquito to human, human to mosquito and so on.
To curtail Chikungunya and other mosquito-borne viruses, experts recommend using bug sprays when going to tropical areas, wooded areas near water, etc. Additionally, any containers containing water and standing water sources should be emptied after usage to prevent mosquitoes from breeding in them. Finally, clothes with long sleeves and pants should be worn to prevent mosquitoes from biting on bare skin.