Jacksonville, FL, United States (4E) – Cases of chikungunya infections have been reported in Florida, Georgia, North Carolina and Tennessee with all of the victims likely acquiring the mosquito-borne disease while traveling to Caribbean islands.
There were 42 infections in Florida as of June 14, Duval County Health Department officials said.
The Georgia Department of Public Health confirmed on Thursday the state’s first case of the viral infection that is not deadly, but causes joint pain and arthritis-like symptoms lasting for weeks. Other symptoms are fever, headache, fatigue, nausea, vomiting, muscle pain and rash.
Two cases in Tennessee were from Madison County and the Knoxville area, the Tennessee Department of Health and Knox County Health Department confirmed.
There is no local transmission yet, according to Roger Nasci, chief of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention ‘s Arboviral Disease Branch in the Division of Vector-Borne Diseases. But the increasing number of American tourists bringing chikungunya back home is raising concern of a possible local outbreak. The outbreak in the Caribbean this year already infected more than 100,000 people.
Experts say the chikungunya virus, which originated in Africa, is most often spread to people by Aedes aegypti and Aedes albopictus mosquitoes, which transmit the virus that causes dengue fever and bite mostly during the daytime.
There is no vaccine preventing infection and the only way to avoid the disease is avoiding mosquito bites.
CDC is advising the public to use bug spray, insect repellent or long sleeve and long pants when out in tropical or wooded areas near water. People should also stop the mosquito from breeding by getting rid of stagnant water in flower pots or empty containers.
Repellents containing DEET, picaridin, IR3535, and oil of lemon eucalyptus and para-menthane-diol products provide the long lasting protection, CDC said. But people who want to be safe from chemicals can use the DEET-free Nature-Cide pesticide/insecticide and repellent.
Made from a blend of natural, essential oils, Nature-Cide is safe for use around children and pets and in homes. It is also safe for use in public transportation, furniture, luggage, and most surfaces.