Chikungunya is a mosquito-transmitted virus that has the potential to become a nasty disease in the U.S. It is already near us—it has been spreading recently in the Caribbean and Central and South America. Since 2006 there have been an average of 28 annual reported cases of the disease in the U.S., but all the cases were travelers who caught the disease outside the country and returned home infected—until recently. In July in
Florida, we had the first record of a person being sick from Chikungunya who had not traveled outside the country. No one knows how quickly the disease may spread here.
Chikungunya is rarely fatal, but it typically results in fever, joint pain and muscle aches. The symptoms typically go away after a week, but in some cases the joint pain is severe and can go on much longer. There is no vaccine and no specific treatment for the infection.
This disease is another important reason to reduce your exposure to mosquitoes. This can be done through a combination of controlling adult mosquitoes, eliminating standing water where mosquitoes breed, using door and window screens, applying insect repellents when you are outside, and when possible wearing long pants and longsleeve shirts to reduce bites.