Flint Hills Community Health Center officials report that Lyon County has had its first lab-confirmed case of an emerging mosquito-transmitted virus in 2015.
Chikungunya, pronounced chik-en-gun-ye, is typically a travel-associated virus involving severe but rarely fatal symptoms, like fever, joint pain or swelling, headache, muscle pain, or rash, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In the case in Lyon County, the resident reported recent travel to Central America.
Symptoms usually begin three to seven days after being bitten by an infected mosquito. Most patients feel better within a week, but some develop long-term joint pain that can last weeks to months. Newborns, older adults, and people with chronic medical conditions are more susceptible to severe symptoms.
“Chikungunya can be a serious and debilitating disease,” said Renee Hively, Clinic Operations Director at the health center. “Anyone traveling to countries where chikungunya is established should take appropriate precautions to prevent mosquito bites.”
According to the Kansas Department of Health and Environment, outbreaks of chikungunya virus have occurred in countries in Africa, Asia, Europe, and the Indian and Pacific Oceans. It was first established in the western hemisphere on St. Maarten, an island in the Caribbean, in December 2013. Cases in the United States among travelers returning from these regions have been identified in several states.
There is growing concern among public health officials that chikungunya could become established in local mosquito populations and pose health risks to humans. Local transmission can occur when mosquitoes in the area have been infected and are spreading it to humans.
No local transmission has been identified in Kansas. However, the mosquitoes that most commonly transmit chikungunya virus – Aedes aegypti and Aedes albopictus – have both been identified in the state.
Kansas reported 15 travel associated chikungunya cases in 2014 and eight cases in 2015 as of July 28.
To prevent mosquito bites, KDHE and the CDC recommend: Using air conditioning or window/door screens to keep mosquitoes outside – or sleeping under a mosquito net; helping to reduce the number of mosquitoes outside your home or hotel room by emptying standing water from containers like buckets or old tires; when weather permits, wearing long-sleeved shirts and long pants; using insect repellents that contain DEET, picaridin, IR3535, and oil of lemon eucalyptus and para-menthanediol products provide long lasting protection. Follow all the label instructions, and apply repellent after applying sunscreen.