Summertime is mosquito time, and that has Florida Department
of Health officials concerned.
With cases of chikungunya fever cropping up all over Florida, state health officials are warning people to take precautions against the flying, biting pests. Manatee County confirmed a new case of the mosquito-borne illness June 26. The victim in that case had recently traveled to the Dominican Republic. It’s believed the fever was contracted there, an email from the Manatee County Health Department said.
The state has been on alert for chikungunya fever since May when a numbers of cases were reported. In every case, the victims had recently traveled to the Caribbean.
“There have been no reports of anyone acquiring chikungunya within the United States,” the health department’s email said. Even so, “there is the possibility that if a person is infected and bitten by a mosquito, that mosquito may later spread the infection locally by biting another person.”
Chikungunya fever is characterized by high temperatures and severe joint pain. There is no antiviral treatment for the disease, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control. While deaths are rare, newborns and people with medical conditions such as diabetes, heart disease and high blood pressure are at greater risk for complications. In most cases, the CDC reports, people with chikungunya recover in about a week.
A total of 48 cases have been diagnosed in Florida this year, The Tampa Tribune reports. Several of those cases have come out of Hillsborough and Pasco counties.
Paul Edson of Pinellas County’s Mosquito Control office explains how easy it could be for the disease to become a real problem here.
“All it takes is that one person to not know they have it, go outside and get bit, and then that mosquito gives it to someone else and we have an epidemic,” he told the Tribune.
Prevention is Key
With other mosquito-borne illnesses, such as eastern equine encephalitis, also a concern in Florida, health experts recommend a strict policy of avoidance.
"Avoiding mosquito bites is the key to preventing infection with chikungunya and other mosquito-borne diseases," said Dr. Jennifer Bencie, the administrator of Manatee’s health department.
Bencie recommends such measures as:
- Draining standing water
- Covering the skin
- Using insect repellant
- Closing windows or making sure they have functional screens
To find out more about chikungunya, visit the state Department of Health’s website.