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CDC warns of painful virus from mosquitoes predicted to hit U.S.

Teresa Tanoos's picture
The CDC predicts virus from the Chikungunya mosquito will hit the U.S.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has issued a warning about a painful virus that is expected to hit the United States. The virus comes from mosquitoes and can result in pain so severe that it leaves those infected in bed for days.

According to the CDC, the Chikungunya virus is already active in the Western Hemisphere, and the agency warns travelers to be cautious and take extra measures to protect themselves from mosquitoes.

So far, 10 people on the Caribbean island of St. Martin have been confirmed to have the virus, which is transmitted by the same mosquitoes that spread the dengue virus, also known as the Asian tiger mosquito. The CDC says that both viruses are on the rise and pose threats to the “health security” of the United States.

In a statement from CDC Director Dr. Tom Frieden, he said that experts from the agency have “predicted and prepared” for the arrival of the virus for many years, and that they already have installed surveillance equipment to monitor and keep track of it.

Although the Chikungunya virus is rarely fatal, it can result in some very serious symptoms, including severe headache, fever, rash and joint pain that often leaves victims contorted and writhing in pain.

To date, there have only been 109 travelers who have brought the virus into the U.S., and so far, it hasn’t spread. Like the West Nile virus, however, which entered the U.S. in 1999 and has since spread throughout North America, the CDC is predicting that the Chikungunya virus will likely do the same.

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Indeed, a study released last year predicted that once Asian tiger mosquitoes become more prevalent in New York, just one person infected with the virus could start an outbreak of Chikungunya in the city.

Meanwhile, the CDC estimates that approximately 9 million Americans travel to the Caribbean each year, which the agency says could increase the likelihood that these travelers could carry the Chikungunya virus back to the U.S. when they return.

“Infected travelers could then cause local transmission of the virus in the United States if mosquitoes bite infected people and then bite other people,” the agency said in a statement.

If you have travel plans to St. Martin, the agency urges you to take extra precautions to protect yourself from mosquito bites. Such precautions include using insect repellent, air conditioning and window screens to keep mosquitoes out, and wearing long sleeves and pants.

The CDC also advises travelers returning from the Caribbean to seek medical care if they experience any symptoms of the virus, such as fever, headache, rash or muscle and joint pains.

Currently, there is no vaccine for Chikungunya virus, nor is there any specific treatment, although symptoms can be alleviated.

SOURCE: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Travelers' Health Notices: Chikungunya in Saint Martin (Caribbean), released December 13, 2013