By Tennessee Department of Health
NASHVILLE, Tenn. – The Tennessee Department of Health is investigating the first potential cases of chikungunya in the state, which is transmitted by daytime biting mosquitoes.
Multiple people from Tennessee recently traveled to the Caribbean, where the illness is now a widespread epidemic with over 100,000 suspected cases. Some of the recent travelers from Tennessee now have symptoms of the illness.
“This is often a terribly painful and uncomfortable illness, with no vaccine to prevent it and no specific treatment for those infected,” said TDH Commissioner John Dreyzehner, MD, MPH. “Recovery can be prolonged, so prevention is the only good option. Outbreaks have occurred in Africa, Asia, Europe and the Indian and Pacific Ocean areas and late last year the virus was found to have spread to the Caribbean. It is, unfortunately, probably just a matter of time before we have confirmed cases here.”
Those who contract the illness may experience varying degrees of fever, joint and muscle pain, rash and joint swelling. Although deaths are rare, those at most risk include the elderly, those with compromised immune systems, and those who have high blood pressure, diabetes and/or heart disease.
“Chikungunya is spread by Aedes species mosquitoes, which feed during the day and are found in abundance in Tennessee,” said Abelardo Moncayo, PhD, director of the TDH Vector-Borne Diseases program. “It is imperative individuals experiencing symptoms of chikungunya virus minimize their exposure to mosquitoes to reduce risk of local transmission. A mosquito can pick up the virus from an infected human and infect others.”
TDH urges healthcare providers to contact local/regional health departments if there is a suspect case and to coordinate testing with the TDH lab to determine if the infection is associated with travel or local transmission. TDH also cautions those who travel abroad and those who may never leave the state to increase their mosquito bite prevention efforts. These are important for preventing a variety of mosquito-borne illnesses, such as West Nile Virus, which are present in Tennessee.
For more information about the chikungunya virus, go to: http://www.cdc.gov/chikungunya/.