Five questions about Chikungunya fever

Tarrant County’s first case of Chikungunya fever was reported recently in a Mansfield resident who recently returned from the Caribbean.

Common symptoms of the mosquito-borne virus are fever, joint pain, headaches and muscle pain. UNT Health Science Center Medical Entomologist Joon Lee, PhD, who oversees a West Nile Virus mosquito-surveillance program with the City of Fort Worth, answered questions about the virus:

Q: How could Chikungunya spread locally?

Dr. Lee: What we know is that a mosquito can transmit this virus by first biting someone who is infected with Chikungunya, then biting and infecting another person. That’s different than the West Nile virus, which mosquitos can get from biting animals such as birds, then spread to people through bites.

Q: How likely is a local outbreak of Chikungunya?

Dr. Lee: It is hard to predict, but right now we don’t see one local case as a big problem. However, if we keep getting more imported cases of Chikungunya, then there is the possibility that we will see local transmission. That is our main concern.

Q: What is the key to stopping local transmission?

Dr. Lee: Rapid detection and rapid response can reduce transmissions. If we identify new imported cases quickly, we can use local mosquito management and targeted education to help people in those neighborhoods avoid becoming infected.

Q: How can people protect themselves?  

Dr. Lee: If there were a human case of Chikungunya in my neighborhood, I would apply mosquito repellent for all outdoor activities. The mosquito that carries Chikungunya is most active around dawn or dusk. Avoid going outside during those periods.

Q: Could the UNTHSC-City of Fort Worth mosquito-surveillance system detect Chikungunya?

Dr. Lee: It could, although we would have to expand our capacity. Whether we do that or not would depend on how many new cases of Chikungunya we see. We still don’t know how big a problem this will become.   

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