LUFKIN, TX (KTRE) - A mosquito-borne virus called chikungunya is not only causing searing pain in some Americans, but joint swelling, high fever and rashes that mimic the measles.
According to the Centers for Disease Control, the chikungunya virus has been prevalent in Africa since 1950s, and just recently has been found in U.S. states. Those states are Nebraska, Indiana, Tennessee, North Carolina, and Florida, and the list is growing, according to the CDC.
"Now, one thing that is a little different about these mosquitoes are they are a different species of mosquitoes than the ones that transmit West Nile virus. The West Nile mosquitoes are active during the night time and the mosquitoes that transmit the virus, chikungunya, are what we call day biters," said Chris Van Deusen, a press officer with the Texas Department of State Health Services in Austin.
Van Deusen said there are no confirmed cases in Texas yet, but that doesn't mean there won't be in the future.
"We don't know if it will be locally acquired or not. Certainly the first cases we see will be imported cases. People who have been traveling elsewhere where the disease is more common and they get bitten by a mosquito there may not get sick until they get home to Texas," Van Deusen said.
On December 6, 2013, the first "two locally-transmitted cases of chikungunya on the Caribbean island of St. Martin," were discovered, the CDC said. Until recently, the virus had only spread to the Caribbean islands of: Anguilla, Antigua, British Virgin Islands, Dominica, Dominican Republic, French Guiana, Guadeloupe, Guyana, Haiti, Martinique, Puerto Rico, Saint Kitts, Saint Lucia, Saint Martin (French), Saint Vincent, and Sint Maarten (Dutch), according to the CDC.
"The major symptoms are joint pain and a very high fever. Headaches and muscle pain and joint swelling are some of the subsequent symptoms as well. It's not usually fatal—very rarely fatal if at all. However, it can be painful," Van Deusen said.
He says that the good news is chikungunya can be prevented the same way we treat any other mosquito bite.
"It really starts with emptying any standing water around your home where mosquitoes like to breed at your home or business. Wear insect repellant when you go outside," Van Deusen said.
For more information, visit www.cdc.gov/.