North Carolina’s second case of chikungunya, a viral infection that can be transmitted to humans by infected mosquitoes, has been confirmed in an Alamance County resident who recently traveled to the Caribbean.
Earlier this month, state health officials reported the first case in a Forsyth County resident. Dozens of cases have been reported in the United States among returning travelers, but so far there have been no reported instances of the disease being acquired in North Carolina or the continental United States, health officials said.
Still, officials say the Asian tiger mosquito that is commonly found in North Carolina could effectively transmit this virus.
Prior to its introduction in the Caribbean, chikungunya (pronounced chicken-goon-ya) was established in East Africa, India, the Indian Ocean and the Western Pacific regions. It was introduced in the Caribbean in 2013 through travelers returning from affected areas. As of June 6, chikungunya has caused illness in over 130,000 persons in the Caribbean, state health officials said.
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Symptoms of chikungunya usually begin three to seven days after being bitten by an infected mosquito. They typically include sudden onset of fever and severe, often disabling, joint pains in the hands and feet. Many patients feel better within a week, but joint pain may persist for months in some people. Newborns exposed during delivery, adults over 65 years old and people with chronic medical conditions have a greater risk for a severe form of the disease.
State health officials advise people traveling to countries where chikungunya transmission is occurring to take precautions to prevent mosquito bites and immediately consult a doctor if they develop fever within the two weeks after their return.
Precautions include wearing light-colored long pants and long-sleeved shirts, reducing time outdoors during early morning and early evening hours when mosquitoes are most active, and applying mosquito repellents such as DEET, picaridin, oil of lemon eucalyptus or IR3535 to exposed skin areas.
Also, residents should take steps to decrease possible breeding grounds for the Asian tiger mosquito. That means removing containers that hold water, changing water in birdbaths and pet bowls, keeping gutters in good repair, and using screens for doors and windows.
For information, visit www.cdc.gov/chikungunya or http://epi.publichealth.nc.gov/cd/arbo/prevent.html.