Health officials in Dallas County, Texas have kicked off their 2015 public education campaign for two mosquito borne viral diseases–Chikungunya and West Nile virus.
“We are beginning our campaign much earlier this year because we want to equip our citizens with the information they need in order to protect themselves and their loved ones from these viruses,” said Zachary Thompson, DCHHS director.
“We will do our part, but public information, education, and action are very crucial to stopping the transmission and spread of the viruses, and also mosquito breeding.”
Nothing changes in regards to detection, prevention, and control methods. DCHHS will continue with year-round surveillance, public health follow-up of reported human cases, public awareness, and control through source reduction, larvicide and adulticide. The 4Ds for personal protection are also still included in campaign messaging: DEET, Dress, Drain, and Dusk/Dawn.
The biggest change, Thompson added, is with Chikungunya virus (CHIKV) mosquito surveillance and control. DCHHS has expanded its efforts to include trapping the mosquitoes that carry CHIKV.
The Aedes aegypti and Aedes albopictus are aggressive daytime biters with peak activity at dusk and dawn. “Once we are aware of a human case, we will ramp up source reduction and public awareness in that area,” Thompson said.
DCHHS Medical Director/Health Authority Dr. Christopher Perkins said residents should understand the severity of CHIKV and do what they can to avoid it. “In some cases, Chikungunya virus can be debilitating,” Dr. Perkins said.
“This disease can affect a person’s long term health and livelihood.” Chikungunya is a Makonde term, which means to “that which bends.” People with CHIKV have been known to curl up or bend in their joint areas due to severe swelling and pain. The virus can also cause high fever, headache, muscle pain, back pain, and rash. CHIKV does not often result in death, but the symptoms can be disabling. There is no specific medication available to treat CHIKV and there is not a vaccine. Avoiding mosquito bites is the best way to avoid CHIKV.
Unlike West Nile virus with the bird as the host, humans are the host for CHIKV. “People confirmed positive for Chikungunya are encouraged to stay indoors while they are having symptoms in order to reduce the risk of further transmission,” Dr. Perkins said.
“All it takes is one bite for a mosquito to transmit the virus from a human and for a mosquito to transmit the virus to another person.”
There have been 10 CHIKV cases in Dallas County all imported by travelers from countries where the virus is endemic. To date, there are no confirmed cases of local transmission in humans or mosquitoes. However, imported cases make local spread possible because the mosquitoes that can transmit the virus are found in Dallas County.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), as of Jan. 13, 2015, there were 2,333 cases of CHIKV in the United States, including 69 in Texas, and no deaths. The CDC reports 11 locally-transmitted cases in Florida.
“Fortunately we haven’t received any reports of deaths related to CHIKV, but we want our residents to be informed and vigilant in stopping this virus,” Dr. Perkins said.