The Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) recently issued a warning that the Americas may be at risk for Chikungunya virus. According to the CDC, the virus is currently responsible for a number of pandemics in Africa and Asia - and recently, in parts of southern Europe. From 2006 to 2010, there have been 106 cases of registered chikungunya virus in the US from travelers returning from pandemic areas.
Clinically, chikungunya is most often characterized by a fever, headache, fatigue, nausea, vomiting, muscle pain, rash and joint pain (the last of which can be sustained for weeks or months). It is an arbovirus transmitted through the species Aedes aegypti and Aedes albopictus. Travelers carrying chikungunya have been quickly quarantined by US health authorities, but PAHO is concerned that the infected mosquitoes themselves may soon begin to spread the virus to the entire Western Hemisphere.
This story stood out to me because so many people are currently concerned about influenza and smallpox - specifically, viruses that can be scientifically engineered to be more lethal. It is often forgotten that there are a number of viruses and diseases endemic in developing countries that US health officials take wide precautions to protect us against. Hopefully people continue to remember that they should be giving their full-fledged support to infectious disease prevention. It's much easier to keep chikungunya out of the US than it would ever be to eliminate it once present.
CDC on Chikungunya: http://www.cdc.gov/ncidod/dvbid/Chikungunya/index.html
- Elena Higuchi