Monday, December 8, 2014

Alerts Lifted for Chikungunya in Florida County

From January 1 to October 14, there were 272 imported cases of Chikungunya in Florida alone, making the state a large epicenter of the viral disease. Comparatively, there have only been 1110 Chikungunya in the rest of the continental US. These cases of Chikungunya are concentrated amongst travellers returning from the Caribbean and South America. However, on June 27, 2014, a patient in Florida was found to be the first autochthonous case of Chikungunya in the United States. This means that the Aedes aegypti mosquitoes inhabiting Florida had bitten a patient that brought the disease into the country, and transmitted it to a native Floridian.

Since June 27, 2014, there have been 11 more autochthonous cases of Chikungunya in Florida, localized in Miami Dade, Palm Beach, St. Lucie, and Broward counties. It is obvious that Chikungunya has become a public health interest throughout Florida, and due to the presence of Aedes aegypti throughout other regions, the continental US. Interestingly, Palm Beach county, responsible for four of the eleven autochthonous cases of Chikungunya in the state, has just lifted its alert  on the ARBO virus in the area. Their reasoning is that the last set of sentinel chickens have tested completely negative, and that the mosquito levels throughout the county have declined significantly.

Although this logic is fair, I would be skeptical of the county's decision to remove the alert completely. The vector, Aedes aegypti, is not going to disappear completely from the county, which means there are still active routes of transmission. According to the WHO, there is evidence that rodents, birds, and small mammals may act as reservoirs for the disease.

The sentinel chickens may be a good indicator for a solid effort controlling vectors recently, but if this falls out of the public's eye as something to be on the lookout for, I would wager that we will see more cases of autochthonous Chikungunya coming this spring and summer in Palm Beach county, Florida.

- Marcus Munoz

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