Imagine knowing that a disease is coming but you can’t stop it or cure it. There is such a disease. Health officials in the U.S. are preparing for the arrival of a debilitating mosquito-borne virus that is sweeping the Caribbean and could soon break out across large parts of the Americas.
Mosquito Borne Virus
The virus, chikungunya, was first identified in 1952 in Tanzania, Africa. It has slowly migrated across the African continent. But in the past decade it has spread from Africa to Asia and Europe. This virus causes fever and intense muscle and joint pain for individuals. Besides fever and joint aches, it causes headaches, nausea and rashes. These symptoms or side effects can last for weeks and in some cases years.
There is currently no vaccine or cure. This disease is rarely fatal but people who get chikungunya probably wish they would die because it is so painful. This all starts by the blood transfer from human to mosquito and vice versa. As you can see, a mosquito will bite a human infecting the host. Once the virus populates the host, another mosquito will feed on the blood. This makes the disease airborne and causes infections among humans.
Next Infection Stage
So now the disease has popped up in the West Indies, just as many Americans are planning spring-break trips to the region. On Dec. 10, 2013, the WHO confirmed the first two cases of chikungunya that were acquired locally rather than imported, on the French part of the island of St. Martin. As of Feb. 21, there were 2,238 confirmed cases of the disease in the Caribbean — from Martinique to the British Virgin Islands.
So far, only imported cases of the disease have been reported in the U.S., Canada and Brazil. But the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has issued warnings to clinicians across the U.S. to be on the lookout for patients showing symptoms.
Experts are concerned because the chikungunya strain in the Caribbean is being spread by a type of mosquito, Aedes aegypti, that is common from the southern U.S. to northern South America. Someone infected in the Caribbean who returns could transmit the disease to local mosquitoes and humans, hence, the spread across the country.
Officials in Florida, Louisiana and as far north as New Jersey are preparing for potential outbreaks. The states have budgeted funds for extra mosquito spray by crop duster airplanes and helicopters. They have plans to coordinate volunteers who, in the event of an outbreak, will go door-to-door to search for mosquito breeding areas in open pools of water. The hope is to eliminate the mosquito population before they can feed off humans and spread the virus.
Other mosquito-borne illnesses have quickly established themselves in the country in recent years. West Nile virus, a pathogen from Africa that can be transmitted to humans by mosquitoes, arrived in New York City in 1999. Today, it has spread across the U.S.
Will you take extra preparations for mosquitos?