The Tennessee Department of Health announced today it is investigating several possible cases of chikungunya, a mosquito-borne virus that produces high fever and painful swelling in the muscles and joints. There is no vaccine nor has a successful method of treatment been developed yet. Symptoms can usually go away within a week, but some victims have reported pain for years after infection.
The chikungunya virus was first discovered in 1952 in Tanzania and has been mostly confined to sub-Saharan Africa and Southern Asia. However, it appeared in the Caribbean late last year and has already infected more than 100,000 people there.
Although health officials in Tennessee haven't confirmed any cases of chikungunya yet, they say several people who recently returned to the state from the Caribbean are exhibiting symptoms consistent with chikungunya infection.
“Chikungunya is spread by Aedes species mosquitoes, which feed during the day and are found in abundance in Tennessee,” said Abelardo Moncayo, PhD, director of the TDH Vector-Borne Diseases program. “It is imperative individuals experiencing symptoms of chikungunya virus minimize their exposure to mosquitoes to reduce risk of local transmission. A mosquito can pick up the virus from an infected human and infect others.”
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention suggests taking measures to avoid contact with mosquitoes, especially when traveling to the Caribbean and other parts of the world where the virus is active. CDC officials recommend wearing long-sleeved shirts and long pants, getting rid of standing water near your home or hotel room, using air conditioning and screens to keep mosquitoes outside and treating your skin and clothing with mosquito repellent.