Cabarrus County reports first chikungunya viral infection

Cabarrus Health Alliance officials on Tuesday confirmed the county’s first case of chikungunya, a viral infection that can be transmitted to humans by infected mosquitoes.

Like the other nine cases reported so far in North Carolina, the patient was infected while traveling to a Caribbean country. South Carolina reported its first case earlier this month.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported an average of 28 chikungunya cases in the country per year from 2006 to 2013, but the number has ballooned to 357 this year. Most of the pre-2013 cases were in people who had visited Asia, but most of the cases this year are coming from the Caribbean.

Last week for the first time, health officials in Florida reported transmission of chikungunya virus to a resident by an infected mosquito in this country. The virus is not transmissible from human to human.

Symptoms of chikungunya usually begin three to seven days after being bitten by an infected mosquito. They typically include fever and severe joint pains. Many patients feel better within a week. 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.

There is no vaccine for chikungunya. Recommended treatment is rest, fluids and over-the-counter pain relievers.

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 two weeks of 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.

Also, residents should take steps to decrease possible mosquito breeding grounds by removing containers that hold water, keeping gutters in good repair and using screens for doors and windows.

For information: www.cdc.gov/chikungunya, www.ncdhhs.gov.