The Georgia Department of Public Health (DPH), last week, confirmed the state’s first human case of chikungunya this year. The patient was infected during a recent trip to a Caribbean nation. Chikungunya is caused by a virus that spreads through mosquito bites - It is not spread person to person.
The most common symptoms of chikungunya are fever and severe joint pain, especially in the hands and feet. Other symptoms may include headache, muscle pain, joint swelling or rash. Symptoms usually begin three to seven days after being bitten by an infected mosquito, with most patients feeling better within a week. Joint pain, however, can persist for months.
Chikungunya disease does not often result in death, but the symptoms can be severe and disabling. Travelers who go to islands in the Caribbean are at risk of getting chikungunya. In addition, travelers to Africa, Asia, and islands in the Indian Ocean and Western Pacific are at risk, as the virus is present in many of these areas. Mosquitoes that carry chikungunya virus bite during the day and at night, indoors and outdoors, and often live around buildings in urban areas.
Currently, CDC has reported more than 60 confirmed cases of chikungunya in the U.S., but that number is growing. All U.S. patients infected with chikungunya virus have travel histories in areas where chikungunya is circulating. Anyone who has symptoms of chikungunya following travel should seek medical attention and make their healthcare provider aware of any travel history outside of the country.
“It is extremely important that patients who are infected with chikungunya virus keep guard against additional mosquito bites,” said Cherie Drenzek, D.V.M, state epidemiologist for DPH. “During the first week or so of infection, chikungunya virus can be passed from an infected person to another mosquito through mosquito bites. An infected mosquito can then transmit the virus to other people, though this has not yet happened in the U.S.”
While there is no local transmission of chikungunya in Georgia, we commonly have transmission of other mosquito-borne diseases like West Nile virus (WNV) or equine encephalitis (EEE) – reminders for people to protect themselves from all mosquito-borne diseases by observing the “Five D’s of Prevention.”
- Dusk/Day/Dawn – Mosquitoes carrying WNV usually bite at dusk and dawn, so avoid or limit outdoor activity at these times. Mosquitoes carrying chikungunya virus bite during the day.
- Dress – Wear loose-fitting, long-sleeved shirts and pants to reduce the amount of exposed skin.
- DEET – Cover exposed skin with an insect repellent containing DEET.
- Drain - Empty any containers holding standing water because they can be excellent breeding grounds for virus-carrying mosquitoes.
- Doors – Make sure doors and windows are in good repair and fit tightly, and fix torn or damaged screens to keep mosquitoes outside.
To learn more about chickungunya, visit http://www.cdc.gov/chikungunya/.