Thursday, July 3, 2014 —
It may have a funny name and might be a little harder to catch than other mosquito-related illnesses, but it is better to be safe than sorry, according to Dennis Joyner, director of the Stanly County Health Department.
It’s called chikungunya (pronounced chick-un-GOON-ya), an illness caused by a virus that spreads through mosquito bites. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently released information that travelers to the Caribbean should pay special attention to protect themselves.
In December 2013, the World Health Organization reported local transmission of chikungunya in St. Martin, one of the islands in the Caribbean. As of June 17, most of the countries in the tropical destination have reported cases of chikungunya.
“The main thing is folks need to listen and learn as these kind of infectious illnesses crop up,” Joyner said.
“It’s something new, not only new to North Carolina but other parts of the U.S., because of the specific nature of it primarily linked to travelers and those areas (of the Caribbean).
“Fortunately, we don’t have any known mosquitos that are harbors of the chikungunya virus. This part is good but, however, we do have the Asian tiger mosquito and it appears it can be transmitted through that mosquito.
“For example, if someone had it, they could transmit it to another person that way. That mosquito doesn’t necessarily need to harbor it.”
Chikungunya can cause fever and severe joint pain. Other symptoms may include headaches, muscle pains, joint swelling or rashes. The CDC reports there is no vaccine or medicine to prevent chikungunya. Travelers are encouraged to protect themselves by wearing mosquito repellent.
“It’s a mild concern to some extent, but for the most part, it is the biggest concern for travelers, and people that do, particularly in the Caribbean, [should] make sure they use mosquito protection to try to prevent mosquito bites as much as possible.”
Joyner also said it may be a good idea to use some of the extra holiday time coming up to clean up those areas where mosquitos may breed, just to be on the safe side.
“We don’t want to cause super alarm,” he said.
“It’s unique and new, and the symptoms are quick. … We have got a long weekend coming up, so it may be prudent to spend a little time turning over those vessels that may harbor mosquitos to prevent breeding of them in general.
“They have the ability to carry other kinds of illnesses. That’s the main message we are sharing with folks.”
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