Palm Beach, FL, United States (4E) – A Palm Beach man and Miami Dade woman were the first to be locally infected with the mosquito-borne chikungunya virus, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
CDC said Thursday the 50-year-old man’s case was a local transmission because he did not travel outside the country. This means he was bitten by a mosquito that has bitten a person who acquired the disease in another country.
The agency is still confirming if the infected 41-year-old woman is also a case of local transmission as state health officials claimed.
Early cases of chikungunya infection in the U.S. were from people who have traveled to the Caribbean, where outbreaks of the disease occurred.
The Chikungunya virus is transmitted to people by the Aedes aegypti and Aedes albopictus mosquitoes, which are found in the southeastern U.S. and in limited areas of the country. Those infected experience fever, muscle and joint pain, headaches and rash about three to seven days after they were bitten.
The infection is not fatal but painful. There is no vaccine to prevent the disease and recovery takes a week. Once infected, a person is immune from the disease. An infected person cannot directly transfer the disease to another person, CDC said.
The infected Florida man reported the symptoms on July 1 while the woman reported the same on June 10.
The disease is believed to have originated in Africa and Asia. It was first detected in the Western Hemisphere in December, specifically on the French island of St. Martin.
The Pan American Health Organization counted 5,037 confirmed cases and 350,580 suspected cases of chikungunya in 23 countries and territories as of July 11. That includes the U.S. territory of Puerto Rico, where the government declared an epidemic on Thursday after confirming 200 cases of infection mainly in San Juan and its surrounding areas.
Walter Tabachnick, director of the University of Florida’s Florida Medical Entomology Laboratory in Vero Beach, urged people to clean their property and drain standing water, where mosquitoes breed. Health officials also advise covering up when going outdoor and to put screen in doors.
Dr. Anna Likos, a disease control and health protection director in Florida, also advise using mosquito repellent to avoid contracting the virus.
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.