Although Pennsylvania recorded nearly 100 imported chikungunya virus cases in 2014 (96) and two cases so far this year, it has never been seen in York County–until now.

Aedes aegypti/CDC
Aedes aegypti/CDC

According to a York Dispatch News report yesterday,  York City medical director David Hawk says someone who recently visited the Dominican Republic contracted it there and then developed symptoms several days later when the person returned to York City. “This is sort of a new entity for us,” as it’s never shown up here before, he said.

Chikungunya is a viral disease transmitted by the bite of infected mosquitoes such as Aedes aegypti and Aedes albopictus. It can cause high fever, join and muscle pain, and headache. Chikungunya does not often result in death, but the joint pain may last for months or years and may become a cause of chronic pain and disability. There is no specific treatment for chikungunya infection, nor any vaccine to prevent it. Pending the development of a new vaccine, the only effective means of prevention is to protect individuals against mosquito bites.

The virus first appeared in the Americas as a locally transmitted infection in the Caribbean in December 2013. Since that time, well over one million cases have been seen throughout the western hemisphere.

In 2014, 2,481 travel associated chikungunya cases were reported in the US, mostly linked to travel to the Caribbean. Florida did report 11 locally transmitted infections last year. Local transmission means that mosquitoes in the area have been infected with chikungunya and are spreading it to people.

As of May 19 this year, 146 travel associated cases have been reported, with more than a third seen in New York and Florida alone.

As for York County, Dr Hawk says, “It’s probably not going to spread here in York,” he said, as it’s only spread by mosquitoes, and the only kind of bugs that can carry it don’t live here — they dwell in more tropical locales.