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New Case of Chikungunya Virus Hits Florida

Jun 07, 2014 12:40 PM EDT
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Health officials in Brevard County in Florida have identified a new case of the mosquito-borne chikungunya disease, raising the number of known cases the state has seen this year to 19.

According to the Florida Department of Health in Brevard County, the infected patient, who remains anonymous, had recently traveled, making the case a likely imported instance of chikungunya fever.

 "With a large number of people traveling to and from the Caribbean in Florida we have been monitoring for possible imported cases," Dr. Carina Blackmore, State Public Health Veterinarian and Deputy State Epidemiologist, told local media, saying that this is the 19th imported case of the virus reported in Florida.

Chikungunya can only be spread through mosquito bite, making this isolated case harmless to other Floridians. However, this still is worrying news for Florida health officials, as each new imported case comes with the threat that native mosquitoes could have fed off the victim before the illness was identified.

If this occurs, it can quickly spread among Florida mosquito populations, making local cases of the debilitating disease inevitable.

According to the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the Chikungunya virus is a non-fatal but highly debilitating disease that causes fever, joint pain, and joint swelling. If untreated, some symptoms can persist for weeks, making mobility very difficult.

As the warmer season presses in, the Florida Department of Health (FDH) has grown increasingly worried about two relatively new mosquito borne illnesses that are currently sweeping across the southern hemisphere.

An estimate 65,000 cases of chikungunya have already occurred in the Caribbean Islands, while the more deadly Dengue fever has been making its way north, from South America.

Between these two diseases, the FDH has identified an estimated 42 cases of imported mosquito borne illnesses in Florida, with this latest case bringing the total up to 43.

The FDH announced this latest case on Friday, June 6.

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