Monday, August 18, 2014

Invasion Of The Americas By Mosquito-Borne Virus Likely

While media attention has been focused recently on coronavirus cases in the Arabian peninsula and the Ebola outbreak in West Africa, experts note that another threat lies in the spread of Chikungunya fever, an illness that is transmitted by mosquitoes and can cause fever, joint and muscle pain, headaches, and rashes. While it does not often cause death, the symptoms can be severe and disabling, with no treatment available.

An A. aegypti mosquito biting a person
Credit: Wikipedia

The potential for worldwide spread of Chikungunya virus is much higher than the risk of dissemination of Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus or Ebola virus, and the number of cases expected from the introduction of Chikungunya virus into the Americas, Europe, or both is immeasurably higher.

Attention and funding should be directed to building up surveillance systems, organizing international coordination efforts, and rapidly developing countermeasures, according to a Clinical Microbiology and Infection article.

"Concerning worldwide globalization of Chikungunya, the question is not whether it can happen, but when it will happen," said lead author Dr. Remi Charrel.

Chikungunya virus is transmitted to people by mosquitoes. The most common symptoms of chikungunya virus infection are fever and joint pain. Other symptoms may include headache, muscle pain, joint swelling, or rash. Outbreaks have occurred in countries in Africa, Asia, Europe, and the Indian and Pacific Oceans.

In late 2013, chikungunya virus was found for the first time in the Americas on islands in the Caribbean. There is a risk that the virus will be imported to new areas by infected travelers. There is no vaccine to prevent or medicine to treat chikungunya virus infection. 

Travelers can protect themselves by preventing mosquito bites. When traveling to countries with chikungunya virus, use insect repellent, wear long sleeves and pants, and stay in places with air conditioning or that use window and door screens.

Contacts and sources:
Nicole Weingartner
Wiley

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