Chikungunya Outbreak Still Spreading

Chikungunya risk to remain raised through fall and winter in Caribbean, Central America and South America, says CDC

(RxWiki News) The outbreak of chikungunya in Central America, South America and the Caribbean — which began last December — is still spreading. The CDC recently warned travelers to take precautions when traveling to affected regions.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said the risk of chikungunya infection — which is spread through mosquitoes — is still high in the fall and winter. Although there are fewer mosquitoes in colder months, they do not drop to zero.

Travelers to affected areas should take precautions to prevent mosquito bites and discuss their travel plans with a doctor.

"The beginning of fall means that mosquito problems in the continental United States will be decreasing," said Roger S. Nasci, PhD, chief of the CDC's Arboviral Diseases Branch. "However, travelers to areas where the chikungunya outbreak continues are at risk of becoming infected. It is important that travelers understand these risks and take appropriate actions to prevent being bitten by mosquitoes."

The outbreak began last December. By the end of October, the virus has infected nearly 800,000 people in 37 countries, the CDC reports. Of those, over 1,600 were US travelers.

Roughly 9 million people travel between the Caribbean and the US each year, the CDC estimates.

Chikungunya is a virus that can cause fever, joint pain, muscle aches, headaches, swelling and rash in patients. It is rarely fatal and usually resolves in about a week. However, some patients report lasting joint pain.

Because the virus can only spread through infected mosquitoes, the CDC says the best way to prevent it is by preventing bites. Travelers should wear long sleeves and pants during the day, use insect repellent and stay inside as much as possible, the CDC says.

There is no vaccine or treatment for chikungunya. Doctors typically treat symptoms in patients. The CDC noted that older patients and those with other conditions, such as heart disease, face a greater risk of serious illness from the virus.

Review Date: 
November 10, 2014