The Kansas Department of Health and Environment has identified the state’s first two cases of travel-associated chikungunya virus. The patients, both of whom are adults from Sedgwick County, reported recent, but separate, travel to the Caribbean.
“Chikungunya virus can be a serious and debilitating disease, and we want travelers to be aware” said Robert Moser, MD, Secretary and State Health Officer. “It is important for persons travelling to countries where chikungunya virus infections are currently reported to take appropriate precautions to prevent exposures to mosquito bites,” Moser said.
Outbreaks of chikungunya virus, which is transmitted by mosquitoes, have occurred in countries in Africa, Asia, Europe, and the Indian and Pacific Oceans. Chikungunya was first established in the western hemisphere on St. Maarten, an island in the Caribbean, in December, 2013. Additional cases have been identified in a total of 19 countries throughout the Caribbean to date.
Cases in the U.S. among travelers returning from these countries have been identified in several states. No local transmission has been identified in the United States mainland. Local transmission occurs when mosquitoes in the area have been infected and are spreading it to people. However, the mosquitoes that most commonly transmit chikungunya virus – Aedes aegypti and Aedes albopictus – have both been identified in the U.S., including in Kansas. There is growing concern among public health officials that chikungunya virus could become established in local mosquito populations and pose additional risks to people.
Infection with chikungunya virus is rarely fatal, but symptoms can be severe. Most people who become infected will have fever and joint pain. Other symptoms include headache, muscle pain, joint swelling, or rash.
To prevent mosquito bites, KDHE and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommend:
- Use air conditioning or window/door screens to keep mosquitoes outside. If you are not able to protect yourself from mosquitoes inside your home or hotel, sleep under a mosquito bed net.
- Help reduce the number of mosquitoes outside your home or hotel room by emptying standing water from containers such as flowerpots, buckets or old tires.
- When weather permits, wear long-sleeved shirts and long pants.
- Use insect repellents
o Repellents containing DEET, picaridin, IR3535, and oil of lemon eucalyptus and para-menthane-diol products provide long lasting protection.
o If you use both sunscreen and insect repellent, apply the sunscreen first and then the repellent.
o Do not spray repellent on the skin under your clothing.
o Treat clothing with permethrin, an insect repellant which can be found at most discount or sporting goods stores, or purchase permethrin-treated clothing.
o Always follow the label instructions when using insect repellent or sunscreen.
Additional information about chikungunya virus can be found by visiting the CDC website at www.cdc.gov/chikungunya. Health care providers may contact the KDHE Epidemiology Hotline at (877) 427-7317 for additional information.