Mosquitoes, everyone’s least-favorite summertime companion, have unleashed a new brand of terrible on unsuspecting outdoor enthusiasts in the U.S. and Caribbean: Chikungunya, a debilitating virus spread by infected mosquitoes. Though typically a risk to travelers in Africa and Southeast Asia, the virus has been confirmed in the Caribbean (includingCuba), Georgia, Oklahoma, North Carolina and Tennessee.
The disease, which has no cure or vaccine, can cause fever and joint pain, with symptoms sometimes becoming chronic. Though not native to the U.S., it’s not hard to see why the CDC and WHO are concerned about the possibility of it spreading: All it takes is one infected person (who, obviously, wasn’t particularly adept at preventing mosquito bites to begin with) to get bitten by a few mosquitoes, who then spread it to others, and so on.
From the WHO’s website:
“Chikungunya is a mosquito-borne viral disease first described during an outbreak in southern Tanzania in 1952. It is an RNA virus that belongs to the alphavirus genus of the family Togaviridae. The name ‘chikungunya’ derives from a word in the Kimakonde language, meaning “to become contorted” and describes the stooped appearance of sufferers with joint pain (arthralgia).”
To avoid bringing home chikungunya (or catching it here in the U.S.), follow standard mosquito precautions: Use bug spray with the highest possible DEET concentration you can find, particularly in wooded or swampy areas. Be vigilant about removing standing water, as this is where mosquitoes lay their eggs. Finally, there’s no substitute for proper coverage, including long sleeves and pants if at all tolerable.
As of 6 March 2014, there have been over 8000 suspected cases in the Americas, including the Caribbean.