The Tennessee Department of Health is investigating the first potential cases of chikungunya in the state. Multiple people from Tennessee recently traveled to the Caribbean, where the illness is now a widespread epidemic with over 100,000 suspected cases. Some of the recent travelers from Tennessee now have symptoms of the illness.
"This is often a terribly painful and uncomfortable illness, with no vaccine to prevent it and no specific treatment for those infected,” said TDH Commissioner John Dreyzehner, MD, MPH. “Recovery can be prolonged, so prevention is the only good option. Outbreaks have occurred in Africa, Asia, Europe and the Indian and Pacific Ocean areas and late last year the virus was found to have spread to the Caribbean. It is, unfortunately, probably just a matter of time before we have confirmed cases here."
Chikungunya is transmitted by daytime biting mosquitoes. Those who contract the illness may experience varying degrees of fever, joint and muscle pain, rash and joint swelling. Although deaths are rare, those at most risk include the elderly, those with compromised immune systems, and those who have high blood pressure, diabetes and/or heart disease.
“Chikungunya is spread by Aedes species mosquitoes, which feed during the day and are found in abundance in Tennessee,” said Abelardo Moncayo, PhD, director of the TDH Vector-Borne Diseases program.
“It is imperative individuals experiencing symptoms of chikungunya virus minimize their exposure to mosquitoes to reduce risk of local transmission. A mosquito can pick up the virus from an infected human and infect others.”
Now we just have to wait to learn how many people are "multiple people," and whether they really do have chikungunya.