A mosquito-borne disease, Chikungunya fever was first identified in 1952 in Tanzania. In recent years it has spread prolifically throughout the Caribbean. It has no known cure, and it is now present in Florida.
A miserable disease
With six months of 2014 behind us, 50 cases of Chikungunya fever have been reported in Florida – 25 of them in the past month. All originated outside of the United States and were brought here by travelers or residents who had visited the Caribbean, where thousands are afflicted by this disease. While it is not fatal, the symptoms – which may include joint and back pain, rash, swelling, and high fever – are miserable and persistent.
In its early years of European settlement through relatively modern times, Florida was a hotbed of mosquito-borne diseases, including yellow fever, malaria, and dengue. Modern medicine and mosquito control efforts over the past century lessened the risk. But if someone arriving in Florida with a mosquito-borne disease is bit by a mosquito and the disease manages to incubate, the cycle begins anew. The risks grow.
“Protection is the only prevention”
That’s the word from Florida’s health officials. There is no vaccine and no cure for this disease, which can be carried by the Asian tiger mosquito and the yellow fever mosquito, found throughout Florida. Although all cases to this point have come from outside the country, we now have a growing number of people in Florida with this disease in their blood.
Protection from mosquito bites is absolutely necessary when you are hiking, paddling, and otherwise spending time in the outdoors. Avoid being outdoors at dawn and dusk, and in deeply shaded places where mosquitoes are rampant. Use a proven insect repellant and wear long lightweight pants to cover body parts most likely to be bitten. Keep a headnet in your day pack for times you take a break and might get swarmed. Consider using permetherin – which should be sprayed on your clothing, NOT on your skin – to repel insects.
- Learn about Chikungunya fever from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) – not updated to reflect 2014 outbreak
- Download the CDC Fact Sheet for Chikungunya fever
- Learn more about Chikungunya fever from the Florida Department of Health
- Learn more about Florida’s mosquitoes
Recent news stories on Chikungunya fever in Florida
June 26, 2014: Two cases of chikungunya reported on Suncoast
June 26, 2014: Mosquito-borne chikungunya fever reported in Sarasota County
June 21, 2014: Chikungunya infections reported in FL, GA, NC, TN
June 20, 2014: New, Untreatable Chikungunya Virus In Caribbean Affects 4,600, Worries Tourism Officials
June 19, 2014: Florida Chikungunya cases double in two weeks
June 19, 2014: Chikungunya virus spreads to U.S., Cuba
June 19, 2014: Two Confirmed Cases of Chikungunya Fever in Leon County
June 9, 2014: Chikungunya fever case confirmed in Orange County
June 6, 2014: Mosquito-borne disease Chikungunya Fever found in Brevard