|Aedes aegypti. Credit: University of Florida Entomology & Nematology|
On Friday, health officials confirmed the first imported case (travel associated) of Chikungunya fever in Brevard County. Today, the Florida Department of Health confirmed a second case in neighboring Orange County. The second person infected had traveled to Haiti and has fully recovered from the infection, officials say.
Chikungunya fever is spread through the bite of an infected mosquito, similar to West Nile and dengue viruses. If a person is infected and bitten by a mosquito, that mosquito may later spread the infection by biting another person.
“Avoiding mosquito bites is the key to preventing infection with chikungunya and other mosquito-borne diseases,” said Dr. Kevin Sherin, director of the Department of Health in Orange County. “Floridians and visitors are encouraged to take precautionary measures to help reduce the chance of being bitten. Remember to drain and cover.”
Statewide, there have been 21 cases of Chikungunya fever reported in Florida. Counties reporting cases were: Brevard (1), Broward (5), Clay, Hillsborough (3), Duval (1), Miami-Dade (7), Orange (1), Palm Beach, and Pasco.
Last month, the U.S. Center for Disease Control and the Florida Department of Health had issued warnings about the possibility of Chikungunya virus (CHIKV) spreading to Florida this year.
In late 2013, the first local transmission of Chikungunya virus (CHIKV) in the Americas was reported in some Caribbean countries and territories. Local transmission means that mosquitoes in the area have been infected with the virus and are spreading it to people.
“With a large number of people traveling to and from the Caribbean in Florida we have been monitoring for possible imported cases,” said Dr. Carina Blackmore, State Public Health Veterinarian and Deputy State Epidemiologist. “We encourage all Floridians to practice the drain and cover method to minimize mosquito exposure.”
CHIKV is spread by two mosquito species: Aedes aegypti (primarily) and Aedes albopictus, both found in Florida. While the virus is not currently found in the state, introductions are possible if a CHIKV infected visitor or returning traveler is bitten by Florida mosquitoes in the early stages (the first week) of their illness. Infected mosquitoes can then spread the virus to other people they bite.
Since CHIKV is new to the Americas, most people in the region are not immune. This means that people in Florida can be infected and spread the virus to other mosquitoes. To make matters worse, a person could become infected with both dengue and CHIKV at the same time because they are both carried by the same types of mosquitoes.
Chikungunya Signs and Symptoms
An infected person will typically become ill three to seven days after the mosquito bite, but symptoms can begin anywhere from two to 12 days post-bite. These symptoms can last 3-10 days.
Up to 28% of people who are infected will not have any symptoms (asymptomatic), although they can still be infectious to mosquitoes for a short time if bitten. Persons at greatest risk for severe illness include newborn infants, those over 65 years of age, and those who have other health conditions. Treatment is symptomatic or supportive.
Sudden high fever (usually >102º F) which may be continuous or intermittent
Severe joint pain that commonly involves the hands and feet
Rash usually 2-5 days after fever starts
Florida: Home of SUPER, MEGA, and CANNIBAL Mosquitoes in OUTER SPACE