(RxWiki News) News that many health experts have been predicting has finally developed — a new mosquito-borne illness has made its way to US shores.
The first case of chikungunya acquired on the US mainland was reported in Florida last week.
Health officials are reminding the public that preventing mosquito bites is the best way to prevent all mosquito-borne illnesses.
"Repair holes in screen doors and windows to keep mosquitos out."
The first locally acquired case of chikungunya was discovered in the continental US last week, reported the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Chikungunya is spread through the bites of mosquitos and can cause symptoms like fever, severe joint pain, headaches and swelling. Symptoms typically develop three to seven days after being bitten with an infected mosquito, the CDC reported, and typically last no more than a week. In some cases, joint pain can linger.
The newly discovered patient, a male, had not recently traveled outside the US — meaning that he became infected with the virus at home. In previous US cases of chikungunya, called "imported" cases, the patients were all believed to have become ill while abroad.
According to the CDC, the US has seen an average of 28 imported cases of the illness a year since 2006. However, so far in 2014, 243 imported cases have been reported. Locally acquired cases of the virus were seen for the first time in the Western Hemisphere earlier this year, when cases developed in Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands.
Two types of mosquitos that can carry and spread chikungunya live in the southern and eastern US, said Erin Staples, MD, PhD, a medical epidemiologist with the CDC's National Center for Emerging and Zoonotic Infectious Diseases.
"It is difficult to predict how the disease will spread in the mainland US, but we predict small, focal outbreaks, similar to pockets of dengue fever infections that have occurred previously in Florida and Texas," she said. "We’re asking health care providers to really be on the lookout for people who have traveled to areas where chikungunya virus is already transmitted and to consider it as a diagnosis when patients present with fever and joint pain."
The CDC suggested people protect themselves from mosquito bites through steps like using insect repellent, wearing long pants and long sleeves and removing standing water, which attracts mosquitos, from around the home.
The CDC stressed that it is especially important that those sick with chikungunya protect themselves from mosquito bites — this can prevent other mosquitos from biting them, becoming infected and spreading the virus further.