Chikungunya virus has made its appearance well known in the United States this year. In fact, cases have gone from a normal 28 per year to 39 reported since June 10th.
The virus is transmitted by mosquito, but not human to human. Fortunately, it isn’t fatal, but it is extremely painful. Reported cases are so far in Tennessee, Georgia, Florida, Rhode Island and Minnesota.
Chikungunya causes a rash, fever, and excruciating joint pain that last from five to seven days. However, Dr. William Schaffner, infectious disease specialist at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tenn., says, “…about 10 percent of the people continue to have joint aches and pains that may go on for several months to a year.”
“The name in African means ‘bent over in pain,’ and it can be quite disagreeable,” he said. “The illness is unpleasant, but not fatal.”
The virus was first recorded in 1952 in Africa then Asia, but in 2013 it began to spread to the Caribbean and Haiti. Travelers to those countries where Chikungunya is prevalent are advised to use mosquito repellent with DEET and to wear long sleeves and pants. On your trip to Caribbean. Yeah, that’s going to happen.
So when you contract Chikungunya, the advice is to stay indoors on quarantine so that you don’t spread it. Take pain relievers and fever reducers and just let the virus run its course, because there is no cure.
But, it is extremely painful.
Dr. Jennifer Halverson, a Minnesota pediatrician who had been working in Haiti, was unlucky enough to contract Chikungunya in April of this year.
“I’ve broken a bone. I’ve had other medical issues.” she said. “I don’t think I’ve ever been in so much pain.”
Fortunately, in the US we are not as susceptible to the epidemic spread that some countries are.
In fact, Dr. Schaffner said, “I think it’s difficult to establish itself in the United States because we’re more separate from the mosquitoes than in the Caribbean. We live in an air conditioning environment and sit on porches – but they are screened… There might be bursts of transmission, but it’s not very easy to establish in the United States.”
Still, we are advised to go ahead and take normal mosquito precautions like draining bird baths, dumping buckets, and getting rid of any other standing water around your property.
Image via Wikimedia Commons