I was sitting on this Caribbean beach last week drinking a piña colada and checking my email when I came across this story from Letitia Stein:
A painful, mosquito-borne viral illness has surfaced across the United States, carried by recent travelers to the Caribbean where the virus is raging.
The virus — chikungunya — is usually not deadly in otherwise healthy people, but it is painful, making people pretty sick with high fevers, headaches, joint and muscle aches, joint swelling, and rashes. Beginning 3-7 days after the bite from an infected mosquito, the illness usually resolves completely after a week (though sometimes the joint pain becomes chronic). There are blood tests that can confirm the presence of chikungunya virus. Samples can be sent to the CDC and just a few state health departments for testing, so confirmation won’t come quickly. There is no medication to treat chikungunya, and no vaccine available to prevent it, so attention to preventing mosquito bites in these regions is key.
The geographic distribution of chikungunya shows the majority of infections occurring in India and Southeast Asia, Sub-Saharan Africa, and, now, the Caribbean:
If your family is planning to travel to these locations this summer, it might be a good time to check the CDC website for more health information. (I’d also strongly recommend a consultation with a travel health specialist like Dr. Sarah Kohl at TravelReadyMD, especially if special vaccines or medications are needed for your planned destination.)
For the rest of us enjoying the warm summer weather here at home, it’s a perfect time to review bug safety — specifically, the use of insect repellents — to prevent painful bites, itchy rashes, and various insect-borne infections.
We’ll have look at that on The PediaBlog tomorrow.
The CDC provides Chikungunya Information for Healthcare Providers here.