The latest disease carried by mosquitoes is called chikungunya virus, and it’s already here, with 28 cases brought into parts of the country by travelers from 17 countries, mainly in the Caribbean.
Similar in some ways to dengue fever, the virus, (pronounced chik-en-gun-ye) causes high fever and intense pain and swelling in joints, as well as muscle pain and headaches. It is transmitted by two kinds of mosquitoes found in parts of the United States. The disease is rarely fatal, but there is no treatment other than pain relief. And while the virus tends to run its course in a week or so, pain can linger for months and, in some cases, years.
So far, there have been no documented cases of transmission from one person to another via mosquito in the United States, the CDC reported, but one researcher believes it’s only a matter of time.
The National Institutes of Health and others are working on vaccines for the disease. The latest version arrived in the Caribbean last fall and has spread rapidly.
The two mosquitoes that carry the virus are aggressive and bite during the day meaning that people must protect themselves differently than they would against night-biting mosquitoes that carry an infection such as West Nile. While that means staying vigilant against mosquitoes during the day as well as the evening, residents of the United States also have two distinct advantages over people in the Caribbean and Latin America.
First, because use of air conditioning and window screens is widespread in this country, many fewer mosquitoes enter homes in the United States. And the mosquitoes that carry the virus probably do not survive in large enough numbers to continue a transmission cycle.