Nashville, Murfreesboro and Mt. Juliet TN
The US is bracing for a debilitating mosquito-borne virus that has already made an unwelcoming presence in the Caribbean. According to the World Health Organization, (WHO), the virus, chikungunya, was first discovered in 1953 in Tanzania, Africa, but was considered an endemic disease for decades. Meaning, the virus only affected a particular area of the world. Over the last ten years, the disease has been found in Asia and Europe, but since February 21st, more than 2,200 cases have been reported in the Caribbean (from Martinique to the British Virgin Islands). The disease is transmitted from mosquitoes to people and vice-verse. Although, only imported cases have been reported in the U.S., Canada, and Brazil, people should take precautions and be aware of the symptoms and seek medical advisement if you experience any. Chikungunya causes fever, severe joint and muscle aches, headaches, nausea, and rashes. The aches and pains can last anywhere from a few weeks to years, in extreme cases.
Unfortunately, no vaccine or cure currently exists for this disease, but fatalities are rare. According to Robert Novak global-health professor at the University of South Florida, “people that get chikungunya probably wish they would die” because it is so painful.
It has been determined that chikungunya is prevalent in a specific mosquito, the Aedes aegypti, which are commonly found in the southern part of the U.S. and northern area of South America. However, chikungunya could easily spread across the U.S., causing an epidemic as people flock for medical treatment of their symptoms. We all probably remember in 1999 when West Nile, another mosquito-borne illness, staked a claim in the U.S. and began to spread across the states. The chikungunya officially began spreading from Africa in 2004, with the worst outbreak in 2005-2006 as the virus swept across the French island of Reunion infecting about one quarter of the island’s population within months. By 2007, the virus had reached Italy and had already been detected in India, China and other parts of Asia. The good news is since air conditioning and pesticides are widely used in the U.S., experts predict chikungunya will be limited to local outbreaks. However, people should take precautions seriously. Some precautions you can take to help prevent this disease are to avoid being outside during dusk hours or always wear insect repellant if you are outside, be sure to have screens on your windows whenever they are open, don’t leave standing water anywhere around your property, and seek medical attention if you experience any of the symptoms listed above.
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