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Chikungunya Piggybacks to Rhode Island

Jun 14, 2014 07:39 PM EDT
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Two cases of debilitating Chikungunya virus have turned up in Rhode Island, officials report, continuing a trend of imported cases of the mosquito borne virus across the United States.

The Rhode Island Department of Health (RIDH) confirmed on Friday that two Rhode Island residents had come down with Chikungunya viral infections - a nonfatal but debilitating and mosquito-borne illness.

Chikungunya  is a relatively new mosquito-transmitted disease, and is sweeping across the Caribbean at an alarming rate.

According to the Pan-American Health Organization (PAHO), in association with the World Health Organization (WHO), an estimated 55,000 suspected and confirmed cases of this relatively new virus have swept across the Caribbean in recent months, with thousands of other cases likely gone unreported.

As of June 4, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) had identified 17 different countries with outbreaks of the disease. In light of this, the CDC is recommending that travels stay alert for the virus, taking standard precautions against mosquito bites and seeing a doctor right away if they begin to experience joint pain, fever, or joint swelling - the major symptoms of the disease.

Despite caution, imported cases of the virus in the US are still inevitable. According to a RIDH release, these two most recent US cases were both imported after they returned from the Dominican Republic on May 17 and May 29.

The good news is that neither of these patients were exposed to local mosquito populations for before being presented to local physicians for Chikungunya symptoms.

This is the major concern for all US health officials, especially in Florida, which is closest to the Caribbean, and boasts the most Caribbean travelers.

According to past reports, if even a single local mosquito happens to feed on a human infected with an imported case of Chikungunya, there is always a chance that the infection can find a local base and become a US problem.

To prevent this, the RIDH and other officials are urging citizens to discard of anything that can hold still water - the ideal breeding grounds for mosquitoes this summer season.

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