FORT WAYNE – It has a scary name and is new to the Americas, but officials say there’s no need to panic over the Chikungunya virus.
State health officials announced Monday that an Allen County resident has tested positive for the mosquito-transmitted virus. The person had recently traveled to the Caribbean, where the virus was first seen in 2013.
Chikungunya is just another example of the dangers posed by disease-carrying mosquitoes, Allen County Health Commissioner Dr. Deborah McMahan said in a written statement. 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.
Officials said the risk of transmission is low – the person with the virus is no longer infectious and the mosquitoes capable of spreading it do not live in northern Indiana.
The virus has been seen in about 10 states, but all of those cases have been in people who have traveled to the Caribbean; none has been through local transmission of the virus. The virus cannot spread from person to person except by mosquito.
That’s the kicker – that’s the difference between Chikungunya and West Nile virus – we don’t have the two mosquitoes that can transmit it, Allen County Health Department Administrator Mindy Waldron said. One is found in southern Indiana, but not here.
The virus, however, is another lesson that people must get rid of the standing water that draws breeding mosquitoes, Waldron said. While Chikungunya-carrying mosquitoes aren’t here yet, they will be soon, she said, and in the meantime there are diseases such as West Nile and St. Louis encephalitis that can be spread.
We’ve got to get rid of the standing water out there on people’s property, Waldron said. We have to.
Waldron said the person with Chikungunya is expected to fully recover. While the virus is rarely fatal, it is painful. The most common symptoms are high fever and severe joint pain; 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.
State health officials said they are not surprised the virus showed up here.
We expected the epidemic in the Caribbean to cause some travel-related cases here in Indiana, said Jennifer Brown, 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.