When Chikungunya first appeared on the Reunion Islands near India, 266,000 of the island’s 770,000 were soon infected according to a recent article by The Daily Beast. It is now in the Western Hemisphere. Chikunguya first appeared here in December 2013 on the Caribbean island of St. Martin and within a few months spread to over 300 people.
The New York Times recently reported, “Already, the travel search engine Kayak said there was a 75 percent decline in searches for St. Martin in the past three weeks, compared to the same period last year.” They went on to say, “Searches for Martinique, which has had 364 confirmed Chikungunya cases, were down 18 percent.” The virus has now spread to four other islands in the Caribbean.
The Aedes mosquito that carries Chikunguya also carries Dengue Fever. Although the Aedes mosquito has been in the United States since 1980, we haven’t seen any cases of Chikunguya yet in the U.S. There is no treatment for Chikunguya. Its name means “to become contorted”. This is because the sudden and severe pain it causes often causes victims to double over.
From the 300 victims in St. Martin, this virus is now in ten Caribbean countries with the number of confirmed cases over 2,000 in just 5 months. Chikunguya spreads quickly for two reasons. First, travelers spread the virus to new regions. With summer vacations starting soon, many US citizens will be basking in the warm Caribbean sun, including in St. Martin. This will make them a vector or possible agent of transmission in bringing the disease to the US.
Second, this virus spreads because it rapidly increases to the highest levels seen in the bloodstream for any mosquito-borne illness. Travelers can become infected often before symptoms occur. This allows mosquitoes living in the traveler’s home destination to pass on the disease in a new geographic location. It isn’t so much a question of if this virus will be reported in the US, but only when.
The rapid levels of the virus in the blood stream allow up to 90% of its victims to have symptoms, primarily painful joints in the hands and feet. These symptoms may last for months or years, long after the virus is gone. The only good news is that it appears that once infected with Chikunguya, an individual can’t be infected again, despite the symptoms lingering.
According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) Symptoms usually begin 3‒7 days after being bitten by an infected mosquito with the most common symptoms of fever and severe joint pains, often in the hands and feet. The CDC reports that other symptoms may include headache, muscle pain, joint swelling, or rash
As with any mosquito-borne disease, prevention is the first step to take in avoiding an illness. The diseases for which mosquitoes are responsible can infect anyone in our family, as well as our pets. The best protection is using a barrier or perimeter spray mosquito and tick control program. Mosquito Squad’s perimeter spray control program creates an invisible protection shield around your yard eliminating mosquitoes and ticks. With the Mosquito Squad program, your yard is re-treated every 3 weeks throughout the entire season.