November 28, 2006 |

Tropical disease arrives on U.S. shores – Several states report mosquito-borne virus – Root Cause?


Tropical disease arrives on U.S. shores – Several states report mosquito-borne virus – Root Cause?

Press Release by Newhouse News Service

Sources: Newhouse News Service, U.S. Army Center for Health Promotion and Preventive Medicine

ATLANTA — Chikungunya, a severe and sometimes deadly infectious

disease that has devastated the islands of the Indian Ocean, has

arrived in the United States.

Colorado, Louisiana, Maryland, Minnesota and at least a half-dozen

other states have reported cases of travelers returning from Asia and

East Africa sick with the virus, according to the Centers for Disease

Control and Prevention.

Chikungunya is spread through an infected mosquito’s bite. It is not

spread directly by an infected person to someone else.

This virus has exploded,” said French scientist Philippe Parola

before presenting his findings last week at the 55th annual American

Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene conference. “People must

start to pay attention.”

From the Indian Ocean islands of Mayotte, Reunion and the

Seychelles, to 150 provinces of India, chikungunya has infected more

than 1.3 million people in the last 20 months.

Even more alarming, international travel has dramatically increased

chikungunya’s global reach. According to the most recent edition of

the journal Emerging Infectious Diseases, hundreds of visitors to

outbreak areas are returning home–to Europe, South America, Canada

and, now, the U.S.–infected with a disease unfamiliar to most

physicians in the West.

“We believe this type of outbreak could occur in other regions of the

world where competent vectors [mosquitoes] are prevalent,” Parola

wrote in the journal article.

At the conference, he further detailed the extent to which

chikungunya (which means “illness of the bended walker” in Tanzania)

has become a global disease.

France has reported 850 cases of travel-associated chikungunya, the

United Kingdom 93 and the United States at least a dozen, according

to the CDC. Other chikungunya-infected travelers have been diagnosed

in Belgium, French Guiana, Hong Kong, Italy, Kenya, Malaysia,

Martinique, Norway, Switzerland and Sri Lanka.

Although chikungunya was discovered in East Africa in the 1950s, it

has caused only 18 major epidemics since that time. But a disease

that was little written about in the textbooks and previously thought

to be benign appears now to have increased both in frequency and

severity, hallmarks of a re-emerging infectious disease.

At least 200 of the 1,415 known infectious diseases are either

emerging for the first time or re-emerging.

The two main mosquito species–Aedes aegypti and Aedes albopictus–

are involved in the transmission of chikungunya, which originated in

wild primates. They can be found in dozens of countries and in at

least half the states in America. That fact alone, wrote Walter

Tabachnick, director of the Florida Medical Entomology Laboratory, in

a newsletter two weeks ago, “should send a chill through U.S.

mosquito and public health workers.”

One hopeful aspect for many U.S. residents is that winter and summer

in the Indian Ocean are the reverse of those seasons in North America.

Travelers returning, say, to the Midwest from a vacation in Reunion,

would most likely be doing so in the winter when few mosquitoes are


The South, where some mosquitoes are present year-round, is a

different story.

“If they get the virus down there, then it could spread all over the

U.S.,” said Charles Calisher, a Colorado State University virologist.

– – –

What to look for

Chikungunya can cause fever, chills, nausea, headache, rash,

crippling joint pain and even neurological damage. The time between

the bite of a mosquito carrying the virus and the start of symptoms

ranges from 1 to 12 days. There is no specific drug treatment, just

bed rest, fluids and mild pain medication.

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For more information see:

– – –

Root Cause???

What are you doing to prevent mosquito borne diseases?

Here are some ideas:

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