Two cases of the mosquito-borne virus chikungunya have been reported in Leon County, FL, say health officials in the area. Both residents who contracted the virus had been on recent trips to Haiti.
Health officials in Leon County have told people not to panic, as it is not likely to spread.
“Both of those cases were imported,” said Leon County Health Officer Claudia Blackburn. “We haven’t had it spread locally, but people don’t need to worry about getting this disease here in Leon County.”
The disease usually only spreads through mosquitoes. It can be passed from person to person if a mosquito feeds on someone with the virus, and then feeds on someone else. However, there is only a two-week transmission period, and health officials have said that that period has passed.
“We don’t anticipate seeing any local spread,” Blackburn said. “I think the main message right now is this is peak mosquito season, we’re getting into peak mosquito season; people need to remember to cover up, use an insect repellent, cover their windows, make sure their screens are intact and drain standing water around their homes.”
The disease can cause many flu-like symptoms. Some of those might include a fever, nausea, severe joint pain, and fatigue. Symptoms can last for several weeks.
While there is no cure, the disease is rarely fatal. It most commonly is found in Africa and Asia.
Although Florida health officials have reported that 42 cases have occurred in the state, there is no evidence that local mosquito populations have been infected. Instead, it is believed that the patients contracted the disease over seas, and then brought it back to the US.
The state does not currently have an action plan to curb mosquito activity.
“In response to chikungunya, we don’t have a specific action plan because at this point it’s an imported disease so there’s not much we can do,” said Glen Pourciau, Leon County’s storm-water superintendent. “In particular this disease is spread by the day-biter species so the trucks at night won’t have any effect on those particular species.”
Even so, residents are being told to take some preventive measures, such as put up mosquito nets or use bug spray in order to avoid getting fed on by the insects.
More preventive information can be found on Florida’s Health website.