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Mosquito-Borne Chikungunya Virus Could Be a Viable Threat in U.S.

Summary: Aside from being pesky, the recent spread of mosquito-related illnesses is now posing a real threat to the U.S.
Air Date: 6/20/14
Duration: 10
Host: Leigh Vinocur, MD
Guest Bio: Bret Nicks, MD
Dr. Bret Nicks is an Associate Professor of Emergency Medicine and the Associate Dean of Global Health at Wake Forest School of Medicine in North Carolina. Dr. Nicks has experience living, working and teaching globally with specific focus in East Africa and Central America. As such, he has developed a keen understanding of mosquito-based diseases such as malaria, dengue, West Nile and others. Dr. Nicks also serves as the chair of ACEP’s Public Relations Committee.
Mosquito-Borne Chikungunya Virus Could Be a Viable Threat in U.S.
It's summer, and for certain parts of the nation that means the mosquitoes are out in full force.

Aside from being annoying and pesky, however, the recent spread of certain mosquito-related illnesses is now posing a real threat to the U.S.

In fact, one such formerly "exotic" disease just hit Puerto Rico.

The Chikungunya virus  is spread via the Asian Tiger Mosquito. This disease initially popped up in Africa and the tropics and made it's way to Europe. In 2013 the disease made its debut in the Caribbean. It's estimated that there may be as many as 160,000-200,000 cases in the Caribbean, although only 5000 have been documented.

Why should this be concerning to you?

These days, many people go to the Caribbean or Puerto Rico for vacation and/or work purposes. If you get bit by an infected mosquito and the virus is present in your body and then get bit by another mosquito when you return to the States, that mosquito becomes infected and can spread the disease.

You can't pass the virus person-to-person; it is transmitted by mosquitoes.

The tricky part is that it can be almost a week after you become infected before you develop symptoms.

Typical symptoms include a really high fever (102+)  that comes on quickly and severe, debilitating joint pain and aches. You may also experience nausea and vomiting, headaches, muscle aches and cramping and a rash.

Is the virus fatal?

Not routinely. People who do perish typically have other underlying health conditions or are very elderly.

What can you do to prevent becoming infected?

Many people think of mosquitoes coming out mainly at dawn and dusk, but this mosquito is a daytime mosquito.

If you're going to be in wetland areas, wooded areas or any place where there is standing water, make sure you're using bug spray. Wear long sleeves and pants if you're going to be hiking or in areas where mosquitoes are present.

Tune in to special guest, Dr. Bret Nicks, and Dr. Leigh to learn more about this new mosquito-borne illness and how you can protect yourself and your loved ones.