Chikungunya Is Still Making Its Mark in the US

Author: Mosquito Squad of Columbia

In December 2013, the first case of Chikungunya was reported in the Western Hemisphere in the Caribbean island nation of St. Martin.  Within 7 months, more than 100,000 cases were reported in 21 Caribbean countries.  In early 2014, there were 4 reported cases of Chikungunya in the US, all in Florida.  This was just the start of Chikungunya in the US, however.  There are now 129 cases in 29 states and in the US territories of Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands.  The CDC recently issued a Level 1 Alert on travel to the Caribbean.

Chikungunya has spread to the US mainland because of travelers visiting the Caribbean, Africa and Southeast Asian countries where outbreaks occur.  Summer vacationers to the Caribbean have made up most of the US cases this year.  Fortunately, no local transmission of the disease has occurred on the US mainland.  Everyone in the US who has the virus brought it home with them.  The only exceptions are the cases in Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands, where local transmission has occurred.

Both mosquitoes and humans are vectors of transmission for the disease.  Humans cannot pass the virus directly to other humans.  However, while infected a human can transmit the disease to mosquitoes and infect them.  For this reason, it is important that infected patients insure they receive no further mosquito bites until they are symptom-free.  The Chikungunya virus takes 2-6 days to run its course before symptoms begin to go away.  Once symptoms are no longer present in a patient, scientists believe the number of bacteria is low enough in the blood that they cannot be transmitted.  Chikungunya causes fever, headaches and joint pain.  The disease is rarely fatal.  However, the joint pain can be severe and may last for months.  For some, the joint pain is debilitating.

The mosquito species that transmit Chikungunya have been present in the US for some time.  They are aggressive daytime biters and are the same mosquitoes that transmit dengue fever.  Both species have been identified in all of our southern US states and as far north as New York and Ohio.  CDC scientists believe it is only a matter of time before we have isolated outbreaks through local transmission of the disease here.

Since we can’t know the travel plans of everyone around us in the Columbia area, it is even more important this summer to prevent mosquito bites.  As the CDC stated in the link above, “The only way to prevent Chikungunya is to prevent mosquito bites.”  This is true of any mosquito-borne disease, whether we are talking about Chikungunya or West Nile Virus.  Since mosquitoes can also transmit heartworm to our pets, bite prevention is important for them also.

We spend the most time outdoors during the summer in our back yards.  Preventing mosquito bites in our yards can be managed by an effective barrier spray, like those offered by Mosquito Squad of Columbia.  Our traditional barrier spray will eliminate both mosquitoes and ticks.  Before spraying we will also share our experience in helping you make your yard unwelcome to mosquitoes and ticks by pointing out the places like leaf litter and other areas they like to live and hide.