Lincoln – The first Nebraska case of a mosquito-borne virus called chikungunya (chik-un-GUHN-ya) was recently reported to the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services. The person, a female under 25 years old from eastern Nebraska, recently traveled to Haiti and public health officials believe she got the virus there. She was hospitalized and later released.
“Travel-associated cases of chikungunya are still fairly uncommon in the U.S. However, we expect to see more in the coming years,” said Dr. Joseph Acierno, Chief Medical Officer and Director of Public Health for DHHS. “Thankfully, deaths from the disease are rare but the pain can be severe and debilitating.”
Fast facts about chikungunya:
Chikungunya outbreaks have occurred in Africa, Europe, Asia and islands in the Indian and Pacific Oceans. In late 2013, it was found for the first time in the Caribbean.
The disease is spread through mosquito bites. Aedes species mosquitoes are the kind that usually transmit chikungunya. They bite mostly in the daytime.
Chikungunya isn’t currently found in mosquitoes in the U.S. according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
CDC studies showed an average of 28 people per year tested positive for chikungunya in the United States from 2006-2013. All were travelers visiting or returning to the U.S. from affected areas.
So far in 2014, there have been 27 chikungunya cases in nine states (Arkansas, California, Connecticut, Florida, Maryland, Nebraska, Nevada, New York, Virginia). All were travel-associated cases.
The virus is not spread person to person.
The most common symptoms of chikunguyna are fever and severe joint pain, often in hands and feet. Other symptoms may include headache, muscle pain or rash. Symptoms usually start 3-7 days after being bitten by an infected mosquito.
There is no medication to treat chikungunya or vaccine to prevent it. But there are medicines to help reduce fever and pain. Patients recover in about a week, although long-term joint pain occurs in some people.
It’s important to remember that mosquitoes can transmit all kinds of different viruses to humans including chikungunya, West Nile and various kinds of encephalitis. So whether you’re traveling abroad or spending the summer here at home, it’s important to protect yourself against mosquito bites:
Use mosquito repellent containing DEET, picaridin, oil of lemon eucalyptus, or IR3535.
Dress in long-sleeved shirts, pants and socks when you’re outside.
Drain standing water around your home. Standing water and warmth provide ideal breeding grounds for mosquitoes.