Via the Miami Herald, a report by Jacqueline Charles: Mosquito-borne virus could become public health nuisance for Florida. Excerpt:
Emilio Jean-Paul could barely take it as he listened to his 3-year-old’s heart-wrenching cries in the middle of the night.
“Papi, Papi, my feet hurt; my hands hurt,” little Emmanuel called out as his tiny body burned up with fever.
Jean-Paul, who lives in the southern Haiti town of Léogâne , was all too familiar with his son’s symptoms. They are the common signs of chikungunya (pronounced chik-en-gun-ye), the painful mosquito-borne virus infection that has been spreading rapidly across Haiti and the rest of the Caribbean since its arrival in the hemisphere in December.
“Chikungunya is everywhere and everyone in the country is crying ‘fever, fever’ ” said Jean-Paul, who works with soccer nonprofit GOALS Haiti, of which several employees and at least one recent visitor from the United States have been infected. “Almost everyone has it. This thing is serious all across Haiti.”
And it soon could become serious in Florida, according to health experts.
A viral disease spread by the same mosquitoes that carry dengue, chikungunya (CHIKV) rarely is fatal. But it has been linked to at least 14 deaths in the Caribbean, most likely individuals with prior health issues.
Since its first detection in the French island of Saint Martin, it has spread to about one new country a week, with the U.S. territory of Puerto Rico and English-speaking Guyana last week becoming the latest to confirm cases. Guyana is now the second country after French Guiana on mainland South America to confirm chikungunya.
In all, there have been 4,406 confirmed cases and 103,018 suspected cases in 17 countries including Puerto Rico. The Dominican Republic recently reported it has 38,639 suspected cases, said Dr. Pilar Ramon-Pardo, a clinical management specialist with the the Pan-American Health Organization.
Ramon-Pardo said imported cases also have been confirmed in Panama, while the Atlanta-based Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced that Florida reported 10 cases through the CDC’s national arboviral surveillance system — coming from travelers returning from the Caribbean territories of Dominica, Dominican Republic, Haiti, Martinique, Saint Martin and Sint Maarten, and Indonesia in Southeast Asia.
So far, no case has been reported of people catching the disease in Florida.