Photo: Chikungunya virus
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Thursday said that the first case of the mosquito-borne chikungunya virus evidently arising in the United States has been confirmed in a person in Florida.
The CDC said that the patient is a man who apparently had not traveled abroad recently, and the federal agency is investigating how he became infected and is closely monitoring the possible appearance of other cases in the area.
“The arrival of chikungunya virus, first in the tropical Americas and now in the United States, underscores the risks posed by this and other exotic pathogens,” said Roger Nasci, the head of CDC’s Arboviral Diseases Branch, on Thursday.
The virus, which is not well-known in the United States, has been detected over the past seven months in residents of several Caribbean islands and, more recently, there have been cases in several U.S. states and territories, but until Thursday all those cases involved people who had traveled abroad to one of the affected zones.
In Puerto Rico on Thursday authorities declared a chikungunya epidemic on the island, given the rapid spread of the virus which, so far, has been confirmed in 206 people, although health authorities suspect that more than double that number have been infected.
The virus, which produces symptoms similar to those of dengue and is transmitted by the Aedes aegypti mosquito, which also transmits the other disease and yellow fever, is common in Africa, Asia and some Pacific islands.
According to CDC figures, 243 cases have been registered in 31 U.S. states and territories among people who had traveled abroad so far this year, compared with an average of 28 cases per year registered since 2006.
There is no vaccine and no treatment for the chikungunya virus, the symptoms of which include fever, fatigue, headache and aching joints, nausea and skin rash, all of which generally appear between three and seven days after a victim is bitten by a carrier mosquito and can last for up to three months. Despite the discomfort, however, the disease is rarely fatal.