US : Mosquito-borne virus raises health concerns
US : Mosquito-borne virus raises health concerns

US : Mosquito-borne virus raises health concerns

A virus that has sickened tens-of-thousands of people in the Caribbean is starting to trickle into the United States. The virus, chikungunya, is spread by mosquitoes, and is notable for causing severe joint pain.

The Rhode Department of Health has confirmed two cases of chikungunya virus infection involving travelers who returned from the Dominican Republic on May 17 and May 29, 2014 after presenting to local physicians with fever, muscle aches and pains, and joint pain. A few other suspected cases remain under investigation.

The virus is primarily transmitted to humans through the bites of infected mosquitoes. It has been found in multiple Caribbean countries. It is also found in Africa, Asia, and islands in the Indian Ocean and Western Pacific areas.

The CDC has issued travel advisories for chikungunya virus to the Caribbean islands.

Most people exposed to chikungunya will develop symptoms. Chikungunya does not often cause death, but the symptoms can be severe. The most common symptoms are high fever and severe joint pain. Other symptoms may include headache, muscle pain, joint swelling or rash. Most patients feel better within a week, but the joint pain can persist for months in some cases.

HEALTH advises Rhode Islanders to see their healthcare provider if illness occurs after traveling from the Caribbean and/or after being bitten by a mosquito, and to protect themselves against mosquito bites at home and abroad.

There is no specific antiviral therapy for chikungunya virus infection. Treatment is for symptoms and can include rest, fluids, and use of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) to relieve acute pain and fever. Currently there is no vaccine.

State health officials encourage Rhode Islanders to take the following steps to rid their properties of potential mosquito breeding grounds:

Discard old tires, plastic containers, ceramic pots or other containers that can hold water; Repair failed septic systems; Drill holes in the bottom of recycling containers left outdoors; Keep grass cut short and shrubbery trimmed; Clean clogged roof gutters, particularly if leaves tend to plug up the drains; Frequently replace the water in pet bowls; Flush ornamental fountains and birdbaths periodically; and Aerate ornamental pools, or stock them with predatory fish.


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