Mosquito-borne Illness from the Caribbean Starts Showing Up in U.S.

A Forsyth County (North Carolina) resident who recently returned from the Caribbean has been diagnosed with the state’s first case of chikungunya, a painful illness transmitted by mosquitoes, according to state public health officials.

County and state health experts are spreading information about the illness in part to try to head off any chance that the disease gets a foothold in the local mosquito population. It can be spread via Asian tiger mosquitoes that are common here in the warm months and are aggressive daytime biters.

The illness has infected millions of people in the tropics, but travelers have also triggered some locally transmitted cases in Italy and France. Dozens of cases have been reported in the United States among returning travelers, but so far there have been no reported instances of the disease being acquired in North Carolina or the continental United States.

Symptoms typically start three to seven days after a bite by an infected mosquito and can include the sudden onset of fever and severe, often disabling, joint pains in the hands and feet. Many patients feel better within a week, but joint pain, insomnia and headaches may persist for months.

Some people may be infected but show no symptoms, though most do. Newborns exposed during delivery, adults over 65 and people with chronic medical conditions are at greater risk for severe bouts.

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The News & Observer

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