INDIANAPOLIS— An Allen County resident, who recently traveled to the Caribbean, has tested positive for the chikungunya virus. Transmitted by mosquitoes, chikungunya has been found in multiple Caribbean countries. Cases have been identified in travelers returning from the Caribbean and local transmission has not been identified in the United States. Chikungunya has also been found in Africa, Asia and islands in the Indian Ocean and Western Pacific areas.
“We expected the epidemic in the Caribbean to cause some travel-related cases here in Indiana,” said Jennifer Brown, DVM, State Public Health Veterinarian at the Indiana State Department of Health. “We encourage all Hoosiers to take precautions against mosquito bites at home and while traveling.”
While the Chikungunya risk for Hoosiers who have not traveled to the Caribbean is low, State health officials recommend the following to protect against mosquito-borne viruses like West Nile virus and St. Louis Encephalitis:
• Avoid places where mosquitoes are biting;
• Apply insect repellent containing DEET, picaradin or oil of lemon eucalyptus to clothes and exposed skin;
• Install or repair screens on windows and doors to keep mosquitoes out of the home; and,
• When possible, wear pants and long sleeves, especially if walking in wooded or marshy areas.
“Chikungunya is just another example of the dangers posed by disease-carrying mosquitoes,” said Allen County Health Commissioner Deborah McMahan, M.D. “Whether you are planning a trip to the Caribbean or a picnic in your own backyard, please remember your best defense is to wear insect repellent and stay inside as much as possible during peak biting times.”
Most people exposed to chikungunya will develop symptoms. Chikungunya does not often cause death, but the symptoms can be severe. The most common symptoms are high fever and severe joint pain. Other symptoms may include headache, muscle pain, joint swelling or rash. Most patients feel better within one week, but the joint pain can persist for months in some cases. People who develop these symptoms after traveling to the Caribbean or other areas where chikungunya is found should contact a health care provider immediately.
People at risk for more severe disease include newborn infants, adults over age 65 and people with medical conditions such as high blood pressure, diabetes or heart disease. There is no specific treatment for chikungunya. Treatment consists of supportive care for relief of fever and joint pain. Currently, there is no vaccine.
Unlike West Nile virus infection, chikungunya can be transmitted from a sick person to a healthy person by the bite of an infected mosquito. Infected persons are advised to avoid exposure to mosquitoes during the first week of illness. Chikungunya is not transmitted from direct person to person contact.
“If you have recently traveled to the Caribbean and believe that you have symptoms of chikungunya, visit your health care provider and tell them about your travel history,” said Dr. Brown.
State health officials encourage Hoosiers to take the following steps to rid their properties of potential mosquito breeding grounds:
• Discard old tires, tin cans, plastic containers, ceramic pots or other containers that can hold water;
• Repair failed septic systems;
• Drill holes in the bottom of recycling containers left outdoors;
• Keep grass cut short and shrubbery trimmed;
• Clean clogged roof gutters, particularly if leaves tend to plug up the drains;
• Frequently replace the water in pet bowls;
• Flush ornamental fountains and birdbaths periodically; and
• Aerate ornamental pools, or stock them with predatory fish.
Visit the Indiana State Department of Health at http://www.StateHealth.in.gov for important health and safety information, or follow us on Twitter at @StateHealthIN and on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/isdh1.