Mosquito-borne virus plaguing Caribbean may be headed for U.S


Steven Reinberg reports that there have been 57 cases of travel-related chikungunya reported to the Centers for Disease Control this year, but that number may be seriously underestimated, according to medical epidemiologist Erin Staples.

Health officials are reporting a rise in U.S. cases of the mosquito-borne chikungunya virus, though they were quick to note that all of these infections have so far originated outside the United States. “Thankfully, we have not seen any cases in the United States yet where the person got the disease here,” said Dr. Erin Staples, a medical epidemiologist at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Center for Emerging and Zoonotic Infectious Diseases.

However, the virus is now widespread in the Caribbean and it’s likely only a matter of time before it is found in mosquitoes in the United States, possibly as early as this summer, according to the CDC.

Chikungunya — which triggers a very painful but seldom fatal illness — is already common in central and southern Africa, southern Asia and has recently spread to 17 countries in the Caribbean, the CDC noted. Cases have also been reported in Italy and France.

The virus has been reported as close to the U.S. mainland as Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands, Staples noted. “So there is transmission of the virus between people and mosquitoes going on right now in both those locations,” she said. [. . .]

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