rises in U.S. from mosquito-borne chikungunya virus
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[July 18, 2014] By
MIAMI (Reuters) - The first
two locally acquired cases of a painful mosquito-borne
viral illness, chikungunya, have been reported in
Florida, the health officials confirmed on Thursday.
One case was reported in Miami Dade County and the other in Palm
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is working closely
with the Florida Department of Health to determine how the patients
contracted the virus, officials announced.
Chikungunya has surfaced widely across the continental United States
but until now the cases have not been transmitted by local
mosquitoes, which raises the threat. All prior reported cases
involved recent travelers to the Caribbean, where the virus is
“The arrival of chikungunya virus, first in the tropical Americas
and now in the United States, underscores the risks posed by this
and other exotic pathogens,” said Roger Nasci, chief of CDC’s
Arboviral Diseases Branch.
"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 Dr. Anna Likos,
Florida's epidemiologist and disease control and health protection
Since 2006, the United States has averaged 28 imported cases of
chikungunya per year in travelers returning from countries where the
virus is common, the CDC said.
"To date this year, 243 travel-associated cases have been reported
in 31 states and two territories," it said, adding that Puerto Rico
has reported 121 of locally acquired chikungunya.
Chikungunya has rapidly spread in the Caribbean in recent months,
sending thousands of patients to hospitals with painful joints,
pounding headaches and spiking fevers.
Symptoms surface within three to seven days after a bite from an
infected mosquito and typically dissipate within a week. There is no
vaccine and the virus is not deadly.
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"It is not known what course chikungunya will take now in the United
States," the CDC said.
The two species of mosquito known to transmit the disease are
commonly found across the Southeast. Local transmission occurs when
a mosquito bites someone who is infected with the virus and then
bites another person.
Officials say they expect the virus will behave like dengue virus in
the United States, where imported cases have not caused widespread
"None of the more than 200 imported chikungunya cases between 2006
and 2013 have triggered a local outbreak. However, more chikungunya-infected
travelers coming into the United States increases the likelihood
that local chikungunya transmission will occur," the CDC said.
(Additional reporting By Letitia Stein; Editing by Bill Trott)
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