What is chikungunya (chik-un-GUN-YA) virus? It is a debilitating mosquito-borne illness which causes severe pain, high fever, pounding headaches, nausea, vomiting and rash. The name is derived from an East African word for “that which bends” – a reference to the posture adopted by infected people who are stooped over from intense joint pain.
The disease was once confined to Africa and Asia, but was reported by the World Health Organization (WHO) in December 2013 to have infected 10 residents on the Caribbean island of St. Martin. As of January 2014, there were no reported cases of chikungunya in North and South America. However, as of June of this year, health officials in North Carolina, Nebraska and Indiana reported the first confirmed chikungunya cases in those states, along with Tennessee, which has suspected cases. Florida also has reported 25 cases carried by recent travelers to the Caribbean.
Although the disease cannot be spread directly from person to person, a mosquito that bites a person who is infected with the virus can easily spread the disease by biting another person, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The death rate is fairly low – about 1 to 2 percent with most of deaths occurring among the elderly or people with compromised immune systems. However, it does cause much discomfort, pain, and misery.
The Asian Tiger Mosquito (Aedes albopictus), which is now well-established in the southern United States is a carrier of chikungunya. To combat the spread of chikungunya and other mosquito-borne diseases, Green Frog Pest Solutions mosquito specialist, Terry Reagin, recommends practical measures such as eliminating standing bodies of water (where mosquitos often breed) under potted plants and in spare tires, wearing long-sleeved shirts and long pants, applying mosquito repellents, along with mosquito reduction treatments. Reagin also notes, “It is imperative for the home owner to get rid of even the smallest amounts of standing water. Keep bird baths and water containers for pets fresh and clean.”
If there is an upside to the pain and misery of a chikungunya infection, which rarely lasts for more than a week, it is this: Once a person is exposed to the virus, the body is protected from reinfection for lifetime, scientists say.
For more information on mosquito management around your home, contact our licensed mosquito specialist, Terry Reagin, at Green Frog Pest Solutions at 912-367-2361 or greenfrogpestsoulutions.com.