We know that mosquitoes carry and spread several diseases. You have probably heard of West Nile Virus. The chikungunya virus has been around for awhile, but, it has not appeared in the United States until recently. The large majority of people who have this virus got it when traveling outside of the country but within the past few weeks two people, who had not travelled outside the United States, were diagnosed with chikungunya.
This virus is spread via person-mosquito-person. That means someone who has been out of the country and was bit by a mosquito with the virus can come back to the United States and be bit by another mosquito. This mosquito now carries the virus and can spread it to the next person it bites. Because this virus is reaching epidemic level in some areas of the Caribbean, a popular destination, that means any number of people can return with the virus and spread it to other people through mosquitoes.
Two types of mosquitoes carry the virus, the Asian tiger mosquito and the yellow fever mosquito. Either one or both of these mosquitoes are found in the eastern part of the United States, Florida, Texas and Louisiana.
The chikungunya virus is not fatal, however, it is extremely painful. According to the U.S Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, most people who become infected will develop some symptoms. These include:
- Severe joint pain and swelling
- Muscle pain
Symptoms normally appear within three to seven days after being bitten by a mosquito and usually last for about a week, although some people can have long-term joint pain. The symptoms can be severe. Once you have been infected, you are probably immune to future infections.
Diagnosis and Treatment
Your doctor can diagnose the disease with a blood test. There is currently only a few places to have the diagnostic testing completed. This may slow down the results and it could take a few weeks to get the final results of the blood test.
It is important to tell your doctor if you develop the previous symptoms. Make sure to tell your doctor if you have travelled outside the country. There is currently no medications to treat this illness other than over-the-counter medications, such as ibuprofen, naproxen and acetaminophen to reduce fever and pain. You should also make sure to rest and drink plenty of fluids.
The best defense against chikungunya is to avoid being bit by mosquitoes. Make sure you don’t have standing water in your yard, use insect repellant when outside and keep your skin covered.
For more information:
"Symptoms, Diagnosis & Treatment," 2014, March 26, Staff Writer, U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
"U.S. Mosquitoes Spreading Chikungunya, the Excruciatingly Painful Disease that Tore Through the Caribbean," 2014, July 21, Associated Press
Eileen Bailey is a freelance health writer. She is the author of What Went Right: Reframe Your Thinking for a Happier Now, Idiot’s Guide to Adult ADHD, Idiot’s Guide to Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, Essential Guide to Overcoming Obsessive Love, and Essential Guide to Asperger’s Syndrome. She can be found on Twitter @eileenmbailey and on Facebook at eileenmbailey.