Say What? Watch For Chikungunya In 2015

Posted on: 15 January 2015

You know better than to share your twilight BBQ with mosquitoes because of the risk of contracting the West Nile virus. However, now you have another mosquito-borne illness to be concerned about: chikungunya. Yes, it is indeed difficult to pronounce--and impossible to treat. Although it isn't fatal, chikungunya can make you pretty miserable. Here's what you need to know about this virus that is just beginning to hit the United States.

Chikungunya basics

Chikungunya has long existed in countries such as Africa, Asia, Europe, and those in the Indian and Pacific oceans. Any cases in the United States have been travelers infected in these areas. However, in December 2013 chikungunya appeared in the Caribbean, and in July 2014 it showed up in Florida. Although only 11 cases are believed to have been locally transmitted there, about 2,000 foreign-transmitted cases occurred in the United States (500 in New York alone) last year. All but four states have reported cases of the disease. Scientists believe that as the two mosquitoes responsible for the illness--Aedes aegypti and Aedes albopictus--breed and spread across the United States, we will begin to see many local outbreaks of the disease.

Chikungunya misery

Those bitten by a mosquito carrying chikungunya begin to feel ill 3-7 days after infection. The first symptoms are fever and joint pain, progressing to headache, rash, joint swelling, and muscle pain. The disease may resolve in about a week, but some people experience severe joint pain for months afterward. There is no treatment for the virus and no cure. Newborns, the elderly, and persons with medical conditions (such as diabetes, heart disease, and high blood pressure) are especially susceptible to complications.

Unlike the majority of mosquitoes that are active at night, the mosquitoes that spread chikungunya bite during the day--and they will come inside your house to do so. This makes preventing infection tricky, as most people don't wear protective clothing in their homes or put on bug spray while watching TV or doing the dishes.

The best defense against contracting chikungunya is a good offense. Take the following steps to protect yourself

  • eliminate all standing water from your yard (mosquitoes need only a few inches of water in which to breed)

  • repair or replace screens on your windows and doors

  • do not leave front, back, or garage doors open

  • wear long sleeved clothing and/or use insect repellent if working outdoors

  • be alert for mosquitoes in your house during the day (kill any that you see right away)

If you do notice mosquitoes in your area during the day, call your local health department to make a report. As health departments across the country are now watching for this virus, they value this type of information. Also, contact a pest control company, like Ace Walco & Sons Termite & Pest Control, to help rid your home of mosquitoes. 

The chikungunya virus is just getting started here in the United States, so cases are likely to increase in 2015. Be watchful and protect yourself and your family.