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Chikungunya in US for the first time: What is it?

Kathleen Blanchard's picture
What is Chikungunya disease and how did it arrive in the US?

Chikungunya that is a disease spread by mosquitoes has arrived in the United States. The first cases of the painful disease have been reported in a 41-year-old woman in Miami-Dade County and a 50-year-old man in Palm Beach County who have not traveled outside of the country.

The mosquito-borne virus is a painful condition that is rarely. lethal. But it can cause pain that is sometimes long-lasting.

The disease was recently declared an epidemic in Puerto Rico.

According to the CDC, the Florida residents had not recently traveled, making it somewhat of a mystery about how they contracted the disease.

There have been 241 cases of the disease reported in the US this year. CDC officials say they don't expect widespread outbreak however.

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What is Chikungunya?

Chikungunya is a virus that attacks muscle cells. Symptoms of the disease include fever, rash, headache and muscle pain that can be severe and debilitating. Illness usually occurs 3 to 7 days after a mosquito bite.

The disease is rarely fatal. Treatment for Chikungunya is symptomatic and there is no vaccine. Because it is a virus antibiotics won't help. Pain medications can bring relief and include acetaminophen or NSAIDs. Drinking plenty of fluids is also recommended.

“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, Ph.D., chief of CDC’s Arboviral Diseases Branch. “This emphasizes the importance of CDC’s health security initiatives designed to maintain effective surveillance networks, diagnostic laboratories and mosquito control programs both in the United States and around the world.”

Last year the CDC issued a warning that the disease would arrive in the US. The disease can spread if a mosquito bites an infected person.

If you suspect you may have the disease contact your health care provider. Blood work can confirm the diagnosis of Chikungunya that is now reported to have arrived in the US for the first time and found in two people who have not traveled outside of the country.

Image credit: Wikimedia Commons