FRANKFORT, Ky. - The Kentucky Department for Public Health (DPH) has received lab results confirming the first case of the mosquito-borne chikungunya virus, also called CHIKV, in an Anderson County resident who recently traveled to Haiti. Results for nine possible cases in other individuals who recently traveled to the same region are still pending, but are expected to be positive.
“We have been testing our first potential cases of chikungunya virus in Kentucky residents who recently traveled to areas where the disease is present, and have received confirmation of one positive result so far,” said Dr. Kraig Humbaugh, state epidemiologist and DPH deputy commissioner. “This is not a concern for most Kentuckians at this time because the risk is only to those traveling to foreign countries where the disease is present. However, it’s always good to remember to wear protection against mosquitoes, both here at home and when traveling abroad, to protect against all mosquito-borne illnesses.”
The CHIKV illness is routinely found in mosquitoes in the Caribbean, Africa and Asia, but is not yet carried by mosquitoes in Kentucky. CHIKV is only transmitted to humans by the bite of infected mosquitoes, and does not spread person-to-person. The period of time between when an infected mosquito bites a person and when the person develops signs and symptoms of the illness is typically 3-7 days.
With illness onset, the person develops high fever, chills, and joint pain, followed in some by a rash on the trunk, limbs and face lasting 3-4 days. Muscle and joint pain last about one week. Joint pain is often severe and in some people lasts longer, up to several months. CHIKV is usually not fatal. There is no vaccine available to prevent CHIKV infection. There are other illnesses that are preventable in travelers, and up-to-date recommendations for travelers can be found at Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website: http://wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel/.
Kentucky does have both species of mosquitoes that can become infected with CHIKV and then transmit the virus to humans, so it is possible that the illness will become more common in the state and the country in coming years. This is one of the reasons why DPH and the CDC are monitoring new cases of illness in U.S. residents.
People at increased risk for severe disease should consider not traveling to areas with ongoing chikungunya outbreaks. Persons at risk for severe disease include newborns exposed near the time of birth, older adults, and persons with underlying medical conditions, such as hypertension, diabetes, or cardiovascular disease.
To avoid being bitten by mosquitoes, wearing long sleeves and pants, install screens in windows and doors, use repellent, sleep under mosquito nets, stay indoors with air conditioning, wear permethrin-treated clothing.