CHARLESTON, W.Va. – The West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources Bureau for Public Health says the state is investigating its first suspect case of chikungunya (pronounced chik-en-gun-ye), a virus transmitted to people by mosquitoes. Chikungunya is a viral mosquito-borne illness that has made its way to the United States via the Caribbean from Africa, Asia, and the islands in the Indian Ocean and Western Pacific.
“Travelers to these countries have carried the chikungunya virus back to the United States,” said Dr. Letitia Tierney, State Health Officer and Commissioner for the Bureau for Public Health. “It is possible that local mosquito populations could be infected. Currently, we have one suspected case in West Virginia from a traveler to an endemic country.”
Dr. Tierney said the state is waiting for confirmatory testing from CDC but notes there is a confirmed case in Kentucky. As of June 17, there were 80 cases of chikungunya reported in 13 states, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and Puerto Rico, the CDC says. Puerto Rico has 23 locally transmitted cases; all of the others are travel-associated, in people returning from the Caribbean or Asia. No transmission between people in the U.S. has occurred. The Bureau for Public Health sent letters to health departments and health care providers Thursday advising providers of the suspect case along with clinical information and prevention messaging.
Symptoms of chikungunya usually begin three to seven days after being bitten by an infected mosquito and can include fever and severe joint pains, often in the hands and feet. Other possible symptoms include headache, muscle pain, joint swelling, or rash. At the beginning of the sickness, individuals will experience a flu-like illness. Chikungunya does not often result in death. In addition to chikungunya, mosquitos can transmit West Nile, La Crosse, eastern equine encephalomyelitis, and other viruses. Chikungunya, like Dengue fever, can be transmitted from an infected human to an Aedes mosquito which in turn can bite another human and pass along the disease. Aedes mosquitoes are day biters which can lay eggs in very small amounts of water. Early detection of the symptoms and preventing mosquitoes from biting will help prevent the disease from spreading.
Residents are encouraged to drain water from garbage cans, house gutters, pool covers, coolers, toys, flower pots, or any other containers that may collect water which could serve as a breeding pool. Wearing shoes, socks, long pants, long sleeves, and mosquito repellent can also help prevent mosquito bites.