Chikungunya, the new mosquito threat

Sunday, July 27, 2014
By Paul Martin

Recent infections in Florida raise concerns

By Karen Dandurant
Seacoastonline.com
July 27, 2014

PORTSMOUTH — While it was previously reported that a new mosquito threat came only from those who were returning travelers from areas like the Caribbean, that has changed.

Two cases of the chikungunya virus were confirmed last week in Florida residents who had not traveled. Health officials say it is under surveillance but there is no real need for the public to worry, yet.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, the first domestically acquired case of chikungunya, a mosquito-borne disease, was reported July 17 in Florida. This newly reported case represents the first time that mosquitoes in the continental United States are thought to have spread the virus to a non-traveler. Two previously reported cases were attributed to residents returning from the Caribbean,

“There is definitely a lot of discussion about this and we are watching,” said Beth Daly, chief of infectious disease surveillance at the New Hampshire Department of Health and Human Services. “There have actually been 497 cases of this virus in the U.S., but that includes the territories like Puerto Rico. We have seen 300 cases in 30 states, but with the exception of the two Florida cases, all have been in returning travelers.”

Daly said two cases in travelers have been identified in New Hampshire. The chikungunya virus is transmitted to people by two species of mosquitoes, Aedes aegypti and Aedes albopictus. Both are found in the southeastern United States and limited parts of the Southwest. Aedes albopictus is also found farther north up the East Coast, through the Mid-Atlantic states, and is also found in the lower Midwest.

“Neither type of mosquitoes are in the New England states,” Daly said. “That is not to say, as climates change, it will never be here. It would take a number of years and would be the Aedes albopictus, which has a broader range and is now as far as the Mid-Atlantic states.”

The most common symptoms of chikungunya virus infection are fever and joint pain. Other symptoms may include headache, muscle pain, joint swelling or rash.

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