Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Chikungunya spreads to the United States



While most of the world’s attention has been concentrated on Ebola, another virus originating in Africa has been spreading to the United States. Chikungunya is a single stranded RNA virus in the Togaviridae family.

Previously, the travel-acquired cases of Chikungunya have been found in forty-five states, but now eleven locally transmitted cases have been identified in Florida by ArboNET, the national surveillance system for arthropod-borne diseases. Chikungunya was first identified in Tanzania in 1952 and has since then spread to South America, the Caribbean, Europe, and Asia.

Photo Courtesy of the CDC


Chikungunya is transmitted by two species of mosquitos Aedes aegypti and Aedes albopictus. Compared to mosquitos that spread other diseases, such as West Nile virus, Aedes aegypti and Aedes albopictus are more likely to live around humans or inside buildings. In fact, the genus is derived from the Latin word, aedificium which means building or temple. This proximity to humans increases the risk of infection, so keeping mosquitoes away from the infected is key for containment.

Photo courtesy of University of Florida


Symptoms of Chikungunya include severe joint pain, swelling around the joints, fever, conjunctivitis, nausea, rash, headache, and muscle pain. The fever typically breaks after a two days and other acute symptoms resolver after seven to ten days, but joint pain can linger for months afterwards. Currently, there is neither a vaccine nor an anti-viral cure for Chikungunya, as the disease has been poorly researched. The CDC and Florida Department of Health are encouraging preventative measures such as draining standing water, keeping windows and doors closed, and wearing insect-repellant.

Currently, there is neither a vaccine nor an anti-viral cure for Chikungunya, as the disease has been poorly researched. The CDC and Florida Department of Health are encouraging preventative measures such as draining standing water, keeping windows and doors closed, and wearing insect-repellant.

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-Madeleine Bousquet

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